For someone who has changed the way women’s basketball is played in the country and credited to how the Philippine “cagebelles” are now feared in the Southeast Asian region, Pat Aquino remains as humble as the average Juan dela Cruz.
“Is that how people see me?” Aquino asked during an interview with the Inquirer last week, a day after the name of Jeff Cariaso floated as the new Blackwater coach and why, after years of loyal service to the franchise, he was never really given the chance to spread his wings.
“Thanks for that, but I see myself as a student of the game, a basketball nut if you will,” he went on. “I just want to coach.”
Aquino is wishing Cariaso—or whoever the next Bossing coach would be—all the luck. He made it clear that he has resigned from his post as assistant with the club earlier in the year before turning down an actual, long overdue offer to be the head coach after Ariel Vanguardia.
He now has his entire time for the Gilas Women’s team that will try to win the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games basketball gold for the third straight edition, something which only Malaysia has done before.
Knack for winning
The 50-year-old University of the Philippines graduate has a knock for winning games—and titles—in strings. He steered National U to an unprecedented six straight UAAP titles built on the strength of a 96-game winning streak before stepping down. Those two SEA Games golds have come at a time after the Philippines had never gotten over the hump before, and now it seems that the Filipinos cannot stop.
“I always tell myself after a win or a championship: one more, one more,” Aquino said as he and his staff are on the final days of determining the team’s final 12, which Jack Animam and Afril Bernardino will spearhead.
“There’s a lot of talent in the team, talent willing to play for flag and country for only lunch money in exchange,” he said with a smile. “They know they are not being paid that much, all they have is love of country.”
Women’s basketball is not a lucrative sport. Anyone can ask Bernardino.
“She just finished her Navy training, which she needed to do to become an enlisted personnel and earn a monthly salary,” Aquino, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas’ program director for women’s basketball, said.
Aquino turned down the Blackwater offer a few days before it was floated that Cariaso was being considered.
“I have my girls (Gilas Women), they’re my family now,” Aquino said. INQ
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