Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Coach Gabby and Kuya Joey

The present crop of Pinoy hoop fans don’t know him
I don’t even expect my generation to know him either.

My crop haven’t seen this peppery guard run rings around his taller opponents.

No one among my peers actually saw him pace the sidelines in major games.
But tales from the more older ones say he was a legend.

He played basketball in the Olympics.
He steered powerhouse teams in the NCAA and the defunct MICAA.
He mentored future basketball greats like Crispa coach Baby Dalupan and the Great Difference himself, King Caloy Loyzaga.
He was one of the lords of Rizal Memorial Coliseum at the time when games are won on the parquet floor and not in the boardroom.

To wide-eyed, bumbling kids of the 80s who spent their summer afternoons at Nic Jorge’s BEST Center training camp at the Ateneo courts over at Loyola Heights, he was the old man who would patiently teach each and every participant the proper way to execute a lay-up, the cross-over dribble and the two-handed set shot.

Coach Gabby Fajardo was part of Coach Nic Jorge’s pool of coaches at the BEST Center. He was one of the “golden boys” at camp. His brother, the late Fely Fajardo – who is also a hoop legend himself – and Coach Skip Agcaoili were the other old hands who helped run the month-long basketball clinic.

It was easy to spot Coach Gabby at the sprawling Ateneo. Kids crowd around him. He exudes an aura of a doting lolo.

He’d patiently teach 5, 6 or 7-year-olds how to dribble the ball, or run passing drills for tiny tots that at first glance looked like a parlor game played in a Jollibee birthday party. From time-to-time, Coach Gabby would even kneel down to tie a kid’s shoelace.

The final buzzer sounded on Coach Gabby last Saturday. He was 91.


I never expected that my 50th post would deal with death.

Since I started it with Coach Gabby's death, it would be unfair if I'd not punch in a line or two for my Kuya Joey who has rejoined his Tatay and Mommy last Thursday.

I'm still scrounging for words to describe how I feel about his passing. We've lost touch, but fond childhood memories of us talking about cars or watching the PBA together, especially when our idol Ramon Fernandez was playing and the time when we shared a classroom at Letran still linger in my consciousness.

May his soul rest in peace.

(Kuya Joey's picture snatched from my cousin Don Navarro's Multiply site)

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