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PBA: Crispa’s revered record stays safe

Baby DalupanManila, Philippines – Legendary coach Baby Dalupan feels no relief nor regret that his record six straight PBA championships with the Crispa Redmanizers is safe following Purefoods Star’s shock exit in the PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals last Thursday.

In fact, Dalupan isn’t even aware of the existence of such a milestone which the Redmanizers, with him at the helm, achieved from 1975 to 1977, with the Grand Slam pressed in between.

“Di ko na maalala,” says Dalupan, now 91. “Ang alam ko na-break na ni Coach Tim (Cone, the Purefoods coach) yung record ko na 15 championships. Meron pa palang isa.”

Cone had called attention to the Redmanizers’ long-standing but near-forgotten feat during the 2013-2014 Governors Cup Pre-Finals press conference in late June this year just before San Mig Super Coffee (renamed Purefoods Star in the off-season) faced off with Rain or Shine in the best-of-5 championship series.

Asked how he intended to top a possible Grand Slam finish, Cone, who by then has steered the San Mig Coffee franchise to three straight titles from the third conference of 2012, said they will probably go after Crispa’s six consecutive titles, sending sportswriters scurrying to the web for reference.

As fate would have it, San Mig Coffee went on to capture its fourth consecutive title and complete the PBA’s fifth Grand Slam. Cone, who became the first coach in league history to win two Grand Slams (the first with Alaska in 1996), then fell under the crosshairs of Crispa great Fortunato Co, who half-jokingly dared Cone to match their record during the PBA Press Corps Awards last August.

“Now we both have two Grand Slams, Coach Tim.,” said Co, who won as a player in 1976 with Dalupan and again in 1983 with Tommy Manotoc. “Now I’m challenging you to try and win six straight championships like we did at Crispa.”

Gamely taking up the man known as the Fortune Cookie on his dare, Cone said, “The first thing I’ll tell my players once we start practicing for the 40th PBA season is that our journey is far from over; that we still have some ways to go.”

Two days ago, that journey came to an abrupt end at the Cuneta Astrodome after Norman Black, a Grand Slam winner himself in 1989 with San Miguel Beer but thrice on the losing end of Cone and San Mig’s triumphant march last season, led Meralco past Purefoods, 77-65, to keep a revered 39-year-old record undisturbed.

Apprised of the development, Dalupan, who follows the PBA by listening to the play-by-play commentary on television after a laser operation on his remaining good left eye a few years ago went bad, says he believes Cone remains capable of duplicating Crispa’s exploits.

“Kaya pa ni Coach Tim yan,” says the man respectfully called the Maestro by his peers.

Maybe, but now Cone will have to start from scratch.

Fortunato Co, the PBA legend who threw a gauntlet down Cone’s way, shares Dalupan’s unflinching faith although he hastens to add that four straight championships in these times is “already a huge achievement.”

The 1979 most valuable player says Cone’s teams came under more intense challenge than the ones they faced when he, teammate Philip Cezar and the rest of the Redmanizers were putting together six straight championships.

“Mas mahirap ngayon kasi during our time, di pa masyadong balanse ang mga teams,” says Co. “Yung core ng magagaling na players either nasa Crispa o nasa Toyota. Meron din sa ibang teams pero di nagkakasabay-sabay. Ngayon, mas spread out na ang talent kaya malaking achievement na yung na-accomplish nila na apat na sunodsunod na championships.”

Co says that while the dare he made months ago was just banter to lighten the mood, his belief in Cone isn’t.

“I don’t have any doubt Coach Tim is capable of doing it,” says the Mapua Cardinals mentor. “Kaya lang mahirap talaga for a team to stay on top for a long time. Ang tendency kasi e medyo bababa after a while. So ang challenge for the coach and the players is how to maintain that level.”

Co, the first PBA player to score 5,000 points, says consistency and the drive for excellence can never waver.

Why does he think Purefoods faltered?

“Akin lang, baka si Coach Tim, at the back of his mind, he wants more championships; yung mga players naman, di natin alam,” says the 9-time Mythical First Team member. “Isa o dalawang player lang kasi ang madiskarel o mawala sa mindset nila e malaking bagay na yon.” Is he relieved somewhat that Crispa’s record is no longer under threat?

“Di naman,” he says. “Records are meant to be broken naman, di ba? Pero sa tingin ko mas mahirap nang gawin ngayon yung naachieve namin noon dahil iba na nga ang sitwasyon. Mas balanse na ang mga teams ngayon.”

And Baby Dalupan, also, is long retired.