Love, gratitude, sympathy pour out on the passing of PH basketball’s ‘godfather’

Published June 17, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Jonas Terrado

The local sports community Wednesday mourned the loss of San Miguel Corporation chairman and CEO Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, who passed away at the age of 85 due to lung cancer.

A source within San Miguel Corporation confirmed Cojuangco’s passing followed by multiple TV, radio and online reports.

San Miguel Corporation chairman and CEO Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco (File Photo / Forbes / Bloomberg)
San Miguel Corporation chairman and CEO Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco (File Photo / Forbes / Bloomberg)

The PBA was among the organizations and sports personalities that paid tribute to Cojuangco, who outside of his role in business and politics was active as a sports patron.

“Thank you for your countless contribution to the PBA and Philippine sports! Our prayers and condolences to his family and loved ones,” the PBA said in a tweet Wednesday morning.

Under Cojuangco, San Miguel was one of the companies that broke away from the MICAA to form the PBA in 1975. The company currently has three teams in the professional league — the San Miguel Beermen, Barangay Ginebra and Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok.

SMC also owned the Coca-Cola Tigers from their inception in 2002 when the food and infrastructure conglomerate held a majority stake at Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines. SMC relinquished ownership of the PBA franchise as part of the subsidiary’s sale to the Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Company in 2006.

All teams under SMC enjoyed success since Cojuangco reassumed the company’s chairmanship in 1998. The Beermen became the PBA’s winningest ballclub by capturing 16 of 27 titles since Cojuangco’s return while crowd-favorite Ginebra won eight championships.

“Boss, alam ko mas maganda na ang kalagayan mo ngayon wala ng sakit at hirap. Ikaw ay mananatiling isa sa aking mga tinitingala at itinuturing na ama sa aking buhay. Parte ka ng anumang naabot ko sa buhay ko ngayon,” said Danny Ildefonso, an instrumental part of San Miguel’s title runs in 1999 to 2001.

“Maraming salamat sa iyong sakripisyo at pagmamahal sa aming mga players mo at lalo na sa iyong kapwa Ilokano. Hanggang sa muli nating pagkikita! You will be surely missed! We love you Apo Lakay ECJ!!!” added the 2000 and 2001 PBA Most Valuable Player.

Purefoods became SMC’s third team in 2001 as part of the company’s purchase of the food business from the Ayala Corporation and subsequently claimed nine championships under different names.

“Salamat po sa lahat ng tulong nyo sa akin mula ng nag start ako sa PBA salamat sa lahat ng payo na binigay nyo sa akin dati. Ggrabe super bait niyo na tao. Salamat dahil tuwing nakikita nyo ako tinatawag nyo ako na ‘LAKAY’ Boss salamat po sa lahat,” said Magnolia’s Marc Pingris, who won championships with Purefoods and San Miguel.

Coca-Cola, which acquired the Pop Cola Panthers during RFM’s sale of Cosmos Bottlers Philippines, bagged two titles under coach Chot Reyes during its short stint as the company’s fourth PBA team.

Cojuangco is famously known for bankrolling the national team program in the 1980s under the Northern Consolidated banner.

Appointed basketball godfather by President Ferdinand Marcos, Cojuangco tapped the services of American coach Ron Jacobs to run the NCC program with the goal of bringing Philippine basketball back to respectability.

After hiring eight Americans as naturalized players, subsequently resulting in winning the 1981 William Jones Cup in Taiwan, the NCC eventually settled on Dennis Still, Jeff Moore and Chip Engelland as naturalized players while recruiting amateur standouts like Samboy Lim, Caidic and Hector Calma.

Calma was part of the national squad that beat China for the 1982 ABC Youth Championship played before a packed crowd at the Araneta Coliseum.

The NCC squad went on to capture the 1984 Asian Interclub and the 1985 Jones Cup and PBA Reinforced Conference as a guest team before winning the prestigious ABC Championship that same year in Kuala Lumpur. The program became inactive after Cojuangco went into exile following the EDSA People Power Revolution.

Former PBA commissioner and Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas Executive Director Noli Eala and current NorthPort owner and 1Pacman party list representative Mikee Romero cited the NCC program as a blueprint for their national team programs they formed in the past.

“His NCC concept was my inspiration for the Gilas program,” said Eala, who launched the first Gilas team in 2009 with a group of collegiate stars and coached by Serbian Rajko Toroman under a long-term program that ended in 2011.

“Danding Cojuangco’s contributions to Philippine Basketball history can be described in one word ‘phenomenal.’ He is the real phenom of Philippine Basketball,” said Romero, who bankrolled the Philippine team that won the gold in the 2007 Nakhon Ratchasima Southeast Asian Games.

“First, he taught all of us how a Philippine team should be put up, by creating the Northern Consolidated-bannered Philippine national team in the 80s. The creation of this national team has been the gold standard and prototype for the many Gilas teams that followed suit. I myself copied this formula in 2007 by putting up the Harbour Centre Philippine team which won gold in the 2007 SEA Games,” he added.

Cojuangco made his way back in 2012 as benefactor of the La Salle basketball program, which underwent hardships after winning the UAAP crown five years earlier.

The Green Archers would win the UAAP title in 2013, overcoming a 3-4 record in the first round behind coach Juno Sauler and star forward Jeron Teng to beat the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers in three games.

La Salle made its way back to the top in 2016 by sweeping archrival Ateneo in the Finals, with the starring roles shared by Teng and Cameroonian import Ben Mbala, who a few years earlier was a prized recruit out of Cebu’s Southwestern University.

The Green Archers lost just one game during the campaign after tapping the services of coach Aldin Ayo, who impressed Cojuangco with the way he steered the Letran Knights to a Cinderella NCAA title run the previous year.

“RIP Boss. Thank you for the opportunity. Forever grateful for your kindness and generosity,” Ayo, current coach of University of Santo Tomas, said.

Teng, who was recruited from Xavier School months after Cojuangco handled the La Salle role, recalled how the man they described as “Boss ECJ” would come to practices despite dealing with health conditions.

“I’m really saddened by the news of Boss ECJ’s passing. He was a great Godfather to us during my years playing for the Green and White,” the current Alaska Aces cager said on his Instagram account. “Despite his health conditions, he always made us feel his presence and support for the basketball team. I will always remember the time when there was a strong typhoon back in year 2012, team practice was moved to LSGH (La Salle Greenhills) because of heavy flooding in different areas.

“Despite the typhoon and the flood, we saw boss ECJ entering the court to watch our practice and during that time he had an oxygen tank with him. The whole team was very surprised and we were all moved because his presence alone during that time really meant a lot to us. 

This memory will always remain in my heart because he showed us that more than a team we are one family.  Boss ECJ always provided us with the best of the best for the team. And for that, I will always be grateful. 

“Thank you for the two championships we won together for DLSU. You will always be remembered, boss ECJ. Thank you for all the guidance, the generosity and most of all the fighting spirit you showed us all in your lifetime . RIP Boss ECJ,” Teng added.


View this post on Instagram

I’m really saddened by the news of Boss Ecj’s passing. He was a great God Father to us during my years playing for the Green and White. Despite his health conditions, he always made us feel his presence and support for the basketball team. I will always remember the time when there was a strong typhoon back in year 2012, team practice was moved to LSGH because of heavy flooding in different areas. Despite the typhoon and the flood, we saw boss ECJ entering the court to watch our practice and during that time he had an oxygen tank with him. The whole team was very surprised and we were all moved because his presence alone during that time really meant a lot to us. This memory will always remain in my heart because he showed us that more than a team we are one family. Boss ECJ always provided us with the best of the best for the team. And for that, I will always be grateful. Thank you for the 2 championships we won together for DLSU. You will always be remembered, boss ECJ. Thank you for all the guidance, the generosity and most of all the fighting spirit you showed us all in your lifetime . RIP Boss ECJ 🙏🏼

A post shared by Jeron Teng (@jeronalvinteng) on

Aside from basketball, Cojuangco was also a major supporter of horse racing, becoming the founding chairman of the Philippine Racing Commission which was formed in 1974.

The Ambassador Eduardo M. Cojuangco Jr. Cup, one of the richest events in the local horse racing calendar, has been held every year in his honor.

He also supported other sports, namely boxing, bowling, golf and volleyball.

 
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