National U's historic championship was an Altamirano family affair

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Jul 26, 2020 03:59 PM
NU's historic championship was an Altamirano family affair
Eric, Marissa, Anton, Luigi, and Aby Altamirano all played a part in National U's first championship since 1954

National University's 60-year title drought came to a close in 2014. 

And according to head coach Eric Altamirano, it was already predetermined even before the season started. "Ang totoo nyan, nung offseason nun, puro kami talo, hindi talaga kami nananalo sa mga liga. One day, kasama ko si Luigi, kinukwento ko sa kanya na nag-struggle nga ang team," he shared in The Prospects Pod, referring to his second son. 

He then continued, "Pero sabi ni Luigi, 'Dad magcha-champion tayo ngayon.' As I look back now, I remember that day na sinabi nga ni Luigi yun and nagkatotoo nga." 

At the end of UAAP 77, Luigi proved prophetic, witnessing his dad guide the Bulldogs to a long-awaited and much-desired title. 

Of course, the dominant defense, the difference-making presence of Alfred Aroga, and the total team effort of the blue and gold contributed to that. 

At the same time, very much key was the all-out support of coach Eric's wife, children, and entire household. 

"Tinuring nila kami na parang sarili nilang mga anak," pesky guard Pao Javelona shared. "Sobrang grateful ko kanila tita Marissa pati sa wives ng iba pang coaches kasi iba yung turing nila sa amin. Sobrang laking bagay ng mga Altamirano sa amin." 

In the brilliant tactician's six-season stint in Sampaloc, wife Marissa, sons Anton and Luigi, daughter Aby, and several other members of the household were fixtures behind the scenes. 

While coach Eric was, well, coaching, the other Altamiranos were also right there as much-welcome helping hands - on or off the court. 

"Ako, tumira ako sa bahay nila, parang anak na talaga ang turing nila sa akin kasi sa iisang bubong lang kami nakatira," now-Gilas Pilipinas forward Troy Rosario said. "Pagpupunta kami ng practice, si coach Eric na nga gumigising sa akin. Si tita Marissa, lahat ng mga kailangan, kumpleto." 

Indeed, in the same way that coach Eric changed the culture of basketball in National U, so did he and his family change the lives of his players. "Siguro, nung first three years ko sa NU, sobrang pasaway ako sa kanya. Talagang hindi ako sumusunod kasi may sarili akong mundo nun na parang sobrang bilib siguro ako sa sarili ko," versatile wing Glenn Khobuntin said. 

He then continued, "Pero kung pinabayaan lang niya ako nun, hindi ko alam kung anong mangyayari sa life ko. Nadiretso buhay ko nung palagi pa rin niya akong kinakausap after practice." 

Now, Khobuntin has the Altamiranos as the template for what he wants his own family to become. "When I had my own family na, doon ko na-realize kung bakit niya ginagawa yun. Parang gusto ko ngang magmura kapag naiisip ko e," he said. 

He then continued, "Grabe. Sobrang thankful akong nakilala ko sila kasi hindi lang sa basketball yung impact nila sa akin e. Kung paano i-handle ni coach E yung family niya, ganun din gusto ko." 

In the end, the team captain of the Bulldogs' UAAP 77 champion team could do nothing but express how much he loved his mentor. 

"I love you, coach," Khobuntin said. "Thank you." 

Without a doubt, his teammates only share the same sentiments. 

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo. 

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