Milestone

With Caidic and Codinera, UE reigned supreme in the early 80s

October 31, 2017

by Gerry Plaza

From the late 1950s to the early to mid-1980s, the Red Warriors of the University of the East were simply the most dominant and feared squad in the UAAP.

Amassing 18 titles, including a 7-peat from 1965-1971, they set the standard in collegiate basketball by not only having the best assembled rosters and brilliant tacticians, but also being ahead of its time in terms of teamsmanship, strategy, and all-around play at both ends of the court. They put a prime on both offense and defense and a puzzling player rotation leaving opponents in disarray—tactics the late Maestro Virgilio “Baby” Dalupan had instilled during these glory days when he was at the helm as both coach and athletic director of the university.

And best of all, they choose their Red Warriors well.

“Triggerman”

Take for example their last three titles, which they copped in 1982, 1984 and 1985. Their main “triggerman” was a player turned down by the Ateneo Blue Eagles and the Mapua Cardinals. But Coach Robert Flores, under Dalupan’s watch, saw through the jitters and rustiness and found the Roosevelt College high school alum named Allan Caidic a worthy addition to the 1981 roster. Even that early, Coach Flores foresaw how Caidic could lead the Red Warriors to reclaim the UAAP title it last held in 1978 behind Rudy Distrito, Alex Tan, and Derrick Pumaren.

The FEU Tamaraws took over the reigns since then and had scored back-to-back titles in 1979 and 1980, powered by Bai Cristobal, Anthony Williams, Alfredo Amador, and Rey Lazaro.

Entering the court in Season 44, Caidic shocked everyone with his sweet shooting ways and led the Red Warriors in scoring as UE was on its way to dethrone the sweep-seeking Tamaraws. But, in the final game of the eliminations, painful irony befell the celebrated scorer. Caidic missed what supposed to be game-winning free throws in the endgame, sealing the victory and the three-peat for FEU.

Caidic was devastated. Yet it became motivation to further hone his shooting skills, especially at the free throw line. And in the next season, UE learned from their mistakes and surged ahead in the eliminations, copping the first Finals slot. But a repeat of a UE-FEU Finals did not materialize after the Tamaraws lost to a gallant UP Maroons squad, which earned yet another crack at a title that had eluded them for four decades. 

Dramatic comeback

Having the twice-to-beat advantage, UE just had to win over UP once to bag its 16th title. But Caidic and the Red Warriors were stymied by UP’s aggressive defense and exceptional isolation plays for main man Vincent Albino laid out by Coach Joe Lipa and trailed most of the game. But in one gigantic run in the final minutes, Caidic exploded with more than half of his game-high 30 points and led a dramatic comeback to waylay the Maroons for his first UAAP title in a UE jersey. To honor his efforts, the UAAP named Caidic league MVP.

The Warriors were back in its championship ways once more with Caidic as its biggest star—always that deadshot wherever he is on court, making the opposition bite the dust (as what a popular ditty at that time bellowed). And in 1983, UE added yet another threat—this time seen to conquer and own the shaded lane with his towering defensive prowess. 

“Defense Minister”

Jerry Codinera was just known as the son of baseball legend Filomeno “Boy” Codinera and he was simply a multi-talented jock who also played for UE’s baseball and track and field teams in high school and his freshman year in college.

But when he decided to play full time as a UE Red Warrior in Season 46, mainly because of his lanky yet powerful 6’5” frame and the defensive play he showed as a member of the UE Pages, Codinera would provide Coach Flores exceptional perimeter shooting, dizzying shifty moves in the shaded lane, powerful rebounding might, and of course those emphatic blocks that gore their opponents’ inside game, which made him later earn the monicker, “Defense Minister.”

And with Caidic and Codinera on the same team, who could stop them? UP, however, was not at all threatened and used its bumper crop of rookies from the 1982 NCAA juniors champion San Beda Red Cubs—Ronnie Magsanoc and Eric Altamirano—to overpower the defending champion Red Warriors in a playoff match. UP then faced FEU in the Finals, which the latter won convincingly, behind Glenn Capacio, Codinera’s brother Harmon, and rookie Gerry Esplana.

New rival

Again disappointed and hurting, the Red Warriors moved on from the debacle and prepared for another shot at glory. Season 47, indeed, saw the shock-and-awe tandem of Caidic and Codinera stomping the competition, but UE found a new rival, the UST Glowing Goldies, powered by its one-man scoring machine Pido Jarencio, in the race to the Finals.

UE, now under Coach Jimmy Mariano, ruled the elims at first place, but found the Goldies as a difficult opponent in the Finals, given that Caidic found his match in Jarencio, with both of them averaging 37 points. And in one monumental Finals win, UST forced UE to a rubber match behind Jarencio’s 40-point output. But in the winner-take-all match, Caidic didn’t allow Jarencio and UST to relish a moment of glory and took matters in his own hands. He scored 46 points in that Herculean effort to claim UE’s 17th UAAP title and notch his second MVP award. 

In the 1985 season, however, UE’s back-to-back title hopes were threatened after the Northern Consolidated Corp. (NCC) squad, a farm team preparing for the country’s participation in international leagues, recruited Caidic and Codinera. Because of this, they failed to regularly suit up as they juggled their time between their stints for the NCC team and the school.  This meant Coach Mariano had to dig deep into his bench to find worthy replacements. While they struggled, UE still won more games than expected yet lost twice to UST, which ruled the eliminations despite also releasing its top player Jarencio to NCC. 

Unstoppable

And just when UE faced a twice-to-win disadvantage going into the Finals, Caidic and Codinera finally got a go-ahead from NCC officials to play again in the UAAP. And even as Jarencio was also allowed to suit up for UST, Caidic and Codinera were unstoppable and conspired for a Red Warrior romp of the Goldies, 105-78, in Game 1 to arrange for a second-straight rubber match.

In the championship game, Caidic shone so bright in what became his final appearance as a Red Warrior, topscoring with 33 points, with Codinera’s monstrous defensive presence, in yet another rout of the Goldies, 96-80, to annex UE’s back-to-back title, its 18th UAAP seniors basketball championship overall. Caidic then bagged his third UAAP MVP plum.

UE had since failed to measure up to emerging championship squads from Ateneo, La Salle, FEU and UST in the succeeding years, and is still, up to this day, aspiring to bring back those glory days of old.