Basketball

The PBAologist: A look back at Jong Uichico’s brilliant SMC career

PBA/Nuki Sabio

Another partnership spanning at least 20 years comes to an end.

Last August, Tim Cone and Alaska ended their 22-year relationship when the former jumped ship to become coach of the B-MEG Llamados.

Now its Jong Uichico’s turn, reportedly moving from the San Miguel Corporation umbrella to the group of Manuel V. Pangilinan.

(InterAKTV is part of InterAksyon.com, the news portal of TV5, which is chaired by Pangilinan.)

From co-coach at Barangay Ginebra, Uichico will be joining the SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national program. Uichico is no stranger to the national team, which he coached to a fourth-place finish in the 2002 Busan Asian Games.

Uichico will be reunited at the MVP group with Norman Black, the Ateneo Blue Eagles head coach and Talk ‘N Text consultant, under whom the former started his professional coaching career in 1992 as an assistant.

The coach, who turns 50 this July, actually started his coaching career with the La Salle Zobel juniors team of the Green Archers in the UAAP before being tapped by Black to become assistant coach of the Beermen.

When Black moved to Mobiline in 1997, Uichico remained as San Miguel Beer assistant coach, this time under Ron Jacobs.

Uichico was elevated to head coach of the Beermen in 1999 after Jacobs was named consultant for both San Miguel and Ginebra, which named Allan Caidic as coach after the departure of Robert Jaworski.

He quickly became the first rookie coach in the PBA to win back-to-back titles, which he did with San Miguel Beer in the 1999 Commissioner’s and Governors’ Cups.

Uichico won a total of six championships for the Beermen, the last in the 2005 Fiesta Conference.

As a result of a reshuffle among coaches of San Miguel Corporation teams, Uichico became head coach of Barangay Ginebra prior to the start of the 2006-07 season. He gave the Gin Kings a championship right in his first conference with them in the 2006-07 Philippine Cup and would lead them to one more in the 2008 Fiesta Conference.

That 2008 Fiesta title with Chris Alexander as import is the Kings’ last taste of a championship to date.

Last season (2010-11), Barangay Ginebra finished no lower than fourth in all three conferences and compiled a 34-24 win-loss record overall (0.586), which was second-best only to the 48-17 (0.723) of Talk ‘N Text.

Despite not winning a championship, it was the Kings’ highest win percentage and most number of wins over the last four seasons.

Still, Uichico was “demoted” to co-head coach with Siot Tanquingcen prior to the start of the 2011-12 season.

Uichico’s eight PBA titles ranks fourth-most among all coaches in PBA history, next only to Baby Dalupan (15), Cone (13) and Black (10).

His 378-252 (0.600) win-loss record as PBA head coach is the highest among the active coaches in terms of win percentage.

As a player, Uichico played for De La Salle in the UAAP and was part of the national youth team which won the 1982 Asian Youth Championships under Jacobs along with the likes of Hector Calma, and the late Teddy Alfarero and Alfie Almario.

The 6-foot-1 Uichico never played professional ball in the PBA. He was one of only three players not selected in the 1988 PBA Draft along with Jun Tan and Jaime Mariquit.

But he played in the PBA during the 1984 season when he was part of the NCC national team pool under Jacobs that played in the pro league as a guest team. Uichico averaged 6.8 points in 47 games.

Fidel Mangonon III is the head of statistics for the Philippine Basketball Association. His column, The PBAologist, appears exclusively on InterAKTV. For more discussion on the ins and outs of the league, follow Fidel on Twitter.

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