Serendipity and Baby Dalupan’s rise as legendary coach

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EDDIE G. ALINEA

Baby Dalupan’s coaching career actually started as a temporary substitute to then regular University of the East mentor Gabby Fajardo. It was his father, Don Francisco Dalupan, UE’s founder, who in 1955 broached the idea of temporarily calling the shots for the Red Warriors, then the perennial doormat citizens in the UAAP cage war since joining the varsity league in the early 50s.

“Pahiyang lang daw. Balasa, kumbaga para maalis ang malas,” Baby told this writer one day while we were at his friend and kumpadre Danny Floro’s Crispa office in Caniugan, Pasig. He was already manning the Redmanizers’ bench wrecking havoc to all-comers in the commercial amateur leagues in the early 70s.

“Nakapaglaro din naman tayo kahit maigsi lang, so tinanggap ko ang hamon. Baka nga suwertehin na,” he said in reference to his stint as member of the NCAA perennial NCAA champion Ateneo Blue Eagles, where he was also the skipper his Alma Mater’s football team besides being a track and field star, too, during his student days.

UE then had no named player, except for Filomeno “Pilo” Pumaren Jr., father to soon-to-be coaches, too, Derek, Franz and Dindo, unlike its future archrivals University of Santo Tomas Glowing Goldies and the Far Eastern University Tamaraws. Worse, except for an open court along Gastambide Street inside the campus, there was no regular gym to speak of. Practice games were held at the Knight of Columbus gym along Aduana Street in Intramuros.

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In his first year on the bench, Baby carried his Warriors to the championship round. Not much of an accomplishment, but nevertheless gave the boys tremendous inspiration that the following year, they gifted Don Francisco and UE their first taste of a championship – the National Inter-collegiate plum, a Basketball Association of the Philippines-sanctioned annual series among college students.

In 1957, the ”Babe” and the Warriors were, for the first time, the UAAP champions, a victory they repeated the next year, the year they also kept their Inter-collegiate crown.

And as if to serve notice of what to come in the future, UE’s UAAP and Inter-collegiate title runs were highlighted by the Warriors’ conquest of MICAA giant ball clubs in the tournament, called Challenge to Champions where Baby’s magnum opus turned into a legend.

Baby and his Warriors massacred then Ysmael Steel Admirals by 21 points, 91-70, emerging as the first in that era, to beat a commercial giant. That victory captivated the 9,000 fans on hand the historic Rizal Memorial Coliseum and won praises from the media, particularly the Manila Times, which described it as a “brilliant mind-over mater conquest.”

“Never was a champion team outclassed as were the Admiral, whose speed game, went to pieces before the calculating slow-break attack of Baby Dalupan’s zone-playing whiz kids from the UAAP,” The Times reported.

Indeed, in his understated way, Dalupan, an innovator and tinkerer, began shaking things up. With one adjustment, one inspired moment, he altered the zone defense.

UE lost the UAAP and Inter-collegiate titles in 1959, but that proved not enough for the UE high priests to remove him as he Warriors’ head coach. Reason was Baby was named head coach of the Philippine team that saw action and finished ninth in the World Basketball Championship (now FIBA World) in Chile, a solid testament of his brilliance as a tactician.

He was named as the Philippine team’s head coach at the expense of other aspirants like big leaguers Lauro Mumar, Enrique Crame and Tito Eduue.

Back as the Warriors’ guru, Baby, with future stars enrolling at UE, thus, beefing up the Warriors’ rosters year-in and year-out, UE hacked out 10 more UAAP crowns and four more Inter-collegiate diadems one after another from 1960 to 1971.

Those title collections included seven uninterrupted UAAP conquests that started with the acquisition of future national players Roehl Nadurata and Jimmy Mariano then Robert Jaworski, Rudolf Kutch, Rey Alcantara, Rudy Soriano, Tito Varela, Virgilio Abarrientos, Rey Franco, among others.

Upon graduation, Jaworski found himself donning the Yco, Meralco and Toyota colors in the commercial amateur leagues. He moved to the professional PBA ranks with the Comets. Kutch, Alcantara, Soriano, Varela and Franco all went to Crispa in both the amateur and professional folds.

Baby left the collegiate coaching after gifting UE its 12th UAAP championship in 1971 to join bosom friend and Crispa owner Danny Floro in the commercial leagues and on do the pro-ranks where he, likewise, made his indelible marks.

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