While it’s Christmas morning here in Los Angeles and it is and should be a day to rejoice the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, it is also a sad day now that I have time to reflect on the passing of Coach Ron Jacobs. While I only had the pleasure to play for Ron a short time due to ‘basketball politics,’ and unbeknownst to us both, we would be connected in Philippine basketball forever.
There are many out there who came to know him during his time in The Philippines, and they marveled at his coaching skills and knowledge of the game of basketball. A couple of articles were written the past few days about Ron’s coaching “style” and “philosophy,” but some of it is not accurate, and I will set the record straight on that. As you can see in the attached photo, I came to know Coach Jacobs well before we both were introduced to the great fans of Philippine basketball and the city of Manila years ago in 1981. Ron coached at Loyola Marymount University, I played at Pepperdine University— long time arch rivals in the NCAA Division I West Coast Athletic Conference, so by the time we came to The Philippines, we were quite familiar with one another.
Ron’s coaching philosophy, practice routines, and most importantly, his “attention to details” were very familiar with me because I played for his mentor at Pepperdine University, the great Jim Harrick, who went on to win a NCAA Championship at UCLA several years later, as well as have great success at Rhode Island University (Lamar Odom and Cuttino Mobley) and the University of Georgia. Ron was Jim’s assistant coach at Morningside High School in Inglewood for many years, a legendary basketball school here in Southern California. Coach Harrick was a true disciple of the great UCLA coach, John Wooden, the “Wizard of Westwood,” who to this day, is still considered the greatest basketball coach of all time. The “John Wooden” approach to the game and his emphasis on the “basic basketball fundamentals” were 100 percent a part of Coaches Harrick and Jacobs, and Ron carried those with him as he became head coach at Morningside HS, El Camino Junior College, Loyola Marymount University, and ultimately to Philippine basketball.
Every practice written out on a 3×5 index card, the numerous fundamental line drills to begin practice, bull in the pen, game shots with game passes, one bounce dribble left, one bounce dribble right, call “SHOT,” hands up on the “SHOT,” see man/see ball, box out/rebound/ ball to chest elbows out/outlet pass/fill the lane, trail left/trail right, “on balance,” and shooting free throws when you’re TIRED at the end of practice, etc., etc.—and EVERYONE did the same drills, not just “Guard Drills here, Big Man drills over there.” We all did the same thing – and that all started with Coach John Wooden. Nothing scientific, nothing high-tech, nothing super complex — just a tremendous emphasis on the fundamentals of the game, work ethic, individual sacrifice for the good of the team, and again, great attention to detail.
One writer mentioned that Coach Jacobs preferred the slowdown, half court game over a quick-paced game. That is totally false. Our first option was to get a stop, rebound, outlet, and GO! Ball in the middle, lanes filled wide, trailer left, trailer right. If the break wasn’t there, we immediately moved into our offensive sets with plenty of picks, motion, passing, and the opportunity to be creative while at the same time playing disciplined basketball.
THAT was Ron Jacobs basketball —not slow down, walk it up, milk the clock, etc. Sorry, but when I read that, I cringed because that was not the Ron Jacobs’ style of basketball that I played for and against.
Coach Ron Jacobs’ place in Philippine basketball history is set in stone. Under the direction of Boss Danding Cojuangco, Coach Jacobs was able to put together multiple dynamic teams who all played the game the same way (see above). One of Ron’s greatest attributes as a coach was his ability and willingness to put players in a position to do what they do best. He used to tell me often at the end of a timeout late in the game if we were in a close contest, “bring us home, Daddy-O.” That was juice to my engine and he knew it, plus nothing was more important to him than winning.
Rest in peace, Coach Ron Jacobs. You no longer have to live with health’s struggles, and now you are free. And whatever you do from here on, one thing I would bet on – the end game will result in a “W with style,” because that is what you produced throughout your coaching career.
God Bless, Coach… and thanks, from all of us.
Editor’s Note: The author is also considered a legend in Philippine basketball. Known as the “Quick Brown Fox” in his prime in the 1980s, Brown—a Filipino-American—played college ball at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, where he was All-West Coast his Junior and Senior years, and Southern California Player of the Year in 1979. He was drafted by the Houston Rockets in the 3rd Round of the 1979 NBA Draft. He played for the Jacobs-mentored Philippine team that won the 1980 Jones Cup in Taiwan, where the Philippines won the championship defeating Taiwan, Sweden, Italy, and the United States.
Brown also played for the De La Salle Green Archers in 1982. He joined the Great Taste team in the PBA in 1983 and was the Rookie of the Year. He was the MVP in 1985. Brown was named to the PBA Mythical Five selection in 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, and 1988. He retired in 1989 with the San Miguel Beermen.