Posted by: theboyfromsmallville | September 21, 2006

Har-har Jarencio

THE MOST MALIGNED coach—and deservedly so if we go by the way he handled preseason interviews—faced his side of the coliseum, arms raised in V, thumbs up and flashed a smile that in no way contrasted the tears that threatened to spill from his eyes.

If someone had frozen the television coverage at that particular frame, he would have stared into a man choking up on a smorgasbord of emotions that he could not pick a particular one to wear on his Tiger-motif sleeve.

Alfredo Jarencio should have laughed.

Not the hearty type. Not the we-wish-you-a-Merry-Christmas laughter you share with family and close friends during Yuletide gatherings. Not the thigh-slapping, high-fivin’, face-reddening, alcohol-laced hyuk-hyuks you share with your best pals, in a post-9 to 5 night out.

The dry ha-ha. The one thick with vindication and laced with a zip of sarcasm to add a little twang to the flavor.

This is, after all, Pido Jarencio.

This is the UAAP season’s favorite punchline.

This is Mike Dunleavy coaching the fashionable Los Angeles Lakers dressed in a track suit. And we are all his Armani-sporting Jack Nicholsons spewing sharp verbal barbs that we try to blunt with humor.

His statements to the media were a joke. His coaching style did nothing to suppress the snickers. And certainly, when you go off to a 2-5 start in a season made supposedly easier by the absence of La Salle, it is simply laughable.

Pido Jarencio did not laugh then. He did not laugh when he lost star player Jemal Vizcarra for the season after an ACL tear at the start of the University of Santo Tomas’ campaign. He did not laugh when he had to turn the Tigers’ campaign around in a stretch when he lost two more starters and his top bench player to various illnesses.

He said he did not bother to think about who were gone. He only worried about those who were still there.

Guys like Jervy Cruz, a double-double machine who lost the Rookie of the Year trophy to a technicality: He red-shirted his freshman year due to academics. Yes, UST does that to its student-athletes, red-shirt them when they flunk their subjects to instill the value of education within them. Guys like Allan Evangelista, whose offensive board and two free throws in the dying seconds snapped Ateneo’s eight-game winning streak and renewed the Tigers faith in themselves.

“The guys we had left, we knew they could be counted on,” Jarencio said.

We didn’t listen. Instead, we did what we usually do when Jarencio’s name is mentioned in the same breath as “Tigers” and “UAAP.”

We laughed.

Thursday night, we laughed again. No. Let me correct that. We woo-hooed like crazy. Maybe we were? Thursday night, even those who weren’t at the Araneta Coliseum were loony enough to text in “God of all nations…” to those who were at the Big Dome so they could, in a way, join in the proud singing of the school hymn after the Tigers brought down them Warriors and their powerful, experienced roster spiked with a twice-to-beat edge.

In the middle of all that singing, his fist pumping to the rhythm of the hymn’s beat, was Pido Jarencio.

In 40 minutes of tense college basketball action, he exhorted, guided, goaded, scolded, cajoled and coached the Tigers into showcasing in front of national television what heart means in UST. And they responded by willing themselves to an 82-81 victory that had “Ateneo beware” written all over it.

Jarencio helped scribble that message by keeping his faith in his players in a season when no one else did.

“I didn’t promise anything, but I had big expectations for this team,” said the stub-nosed former Ginebra and UST net-torcher. “I just told them to give everything they have in this game.”

And they did, didn’t they?

The Tigers did so by doing what no one else, not even the die-hards among us, did.

They listened to Jarencio. They believed him.

Oh, but we do now. Listen. Believe. We smile at him with respect because we know now what we didn’t know then. That somehow, through all the guffaws he heard along the way, he could get the job done. We respect him enough to pre-extend our forgiveness to him in the event the Tigers fail to ground the Eagles, whose title conquest was already preordained.

Oh yes, we still laugh now.

After all, somewhere in this crazy outcome that has UST competing, improbably, for the UAAP basketball crown must be a cosmic punchline of sorts.

But watching Jarencio proudly waving at the supportive Thomasian community that roared its approval back at him, we realize we are no longer laughing at him.

We are laughing with him.

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Responses

  1. go usteeeeeeeeeeeeeee! go go go!

  2. indeed, what a tragedy la salle isn’t around to witness ust’s return to uaap basketball glory. but then again, who’s complaining? the tigers will be exactly at this same situation w/ or w/o their favorite whipping boys. we miss aric, but yes, go pido! go tigers! and altho we thomasians don’t really understand our school hymn, start practicing your ‘God of All Nations’!


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