Legendary UST basketball coach Aric del Rosario dies

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Former University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers head coach Aric del Rosario passed away Thursday morning, March 26. 

He was 80. 

The Philippine basketball legend, who led the España-based squad to 4 straight championships in the 1990s, succumbed to cardiac arrest. He was pronounced dead on arrival, according to family members. 

Del Rosario was at the helm when UST dominated collegiate basketball, steering the Tigers to a 14-0 elimination round sweep in 1993 to capture the UAAP championship outright. 

The Tigers, led by Chris Cantonjos, Bal David and Dennis Espino, would then cruise to a four-peat title romp until 1996. 

Del Rosario also served as head coach of Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA) team Pampanga Dragons and led them to the inaugural league championship in 1998. 

He also became the assistant coach of PBA teams Alaska Aces and Talk 'N Text. 

In 2003, Del Rosario was appointed head coach of the national team and steered the Philippines to the 12th Southeast Asian Games gold medal. 

The decorated mentor then served as NCAA commissioner from 2009 to 2011 before returning to the sidelines as head coach of the University of Perpetual Help Altas. 

Though he failed to cop a title with the team, Del Rosario led the Altas to 3 Final Four appearances. 

Del Rosario closed out his coaching career as head coach of MPBL team Parañaque Patriots in 2018.

‘Not a bookish coach’

Friends described Del Rosario, a UST commerce graduate, as a practical mentor. 

“As a coach, he was conservative, stickler for fundamentals and discipline,” said former coach Orly Castelo. “A month ago, my son met Aric and he told me he looked good. He finds time to go to the gym.”

Del Rosario's illustrious teammate, Nonong Belmonte, said the UST icon turned out to be a much better coach than a player.

“He wasn't used much in our UST team in the early 1960s,” said Belmonte. “We had guys like (Olympians) Sonny Reyes and Orly Bauzon, Bobby Salonga and Hector Hipolito. Minsan pinapasok siya 'pag lamang na kami (He was only fielded in when we were leading).” 

Belmonte's son Rudolf played under Del Rosario. He got good playing time and became one of the top scorers of the first UST champion team that included center Arnold Espino, forwards Edmund Reyes and Rey Evangelista.

“He is like Ning Ramos (1972 Olympic coach). He is a practical coach. He lets you do your thing,” said the younger Belmonte. 

“He is not a bookish coach. Six months ago, the UST team that won the 4 championships met in a Greenhills restaurant. Aric and I were there. He looked fine.”

Del Rosario became coach of the UST high school team in 1980 and erased its so-so image to meet Ateneo for the title. 

In 1985, he replaced former Olympian Carlos Badion as coach and steered the team to a second-place finish behind the Allan Caidic-led UE team. – with reports from Delfin Dioquino/Rappler.com