Former Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) player Fortunato “Atoy” G. Co is the new head coach of Mapúa Institute of Technology’s basketball team, the Cardinals.
Former Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) player Fortunato “Atoy” G. Co is the new head coach of Mapúa Institute of Technology’s basketball team, the Cardinals, the Institute formally announced today, February 13.
Co has replaced Chito Victolero, whose three-year contract expired at the end of the 88th season of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) last year.
The former PBA star player signed his three-year contract with the Institute on Tuesday. A ceremonial signing will take place on Friday, February 15, and it will be attended by Mapúa’s president and chief executive officer, Dr. Reynaldo B. Vea, and the school’s alumni.
“Atoy is one of Philippines’ greatest basketball players ever and he is a former Cardinal. He will certainly bring excitement to Mapúa Cardinals as well as the entire Mapúa community, including our legion of alumni who have followed him play professionally through the years,” Dr. Vea said.
Co joined the Cardinals in 1970 and played for the Mapúa team for three years. He was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) during his first and second years.
During his PBA stint, he played for the two-time grand slam champion Crispa Redmanizers from 1975 to 1984, with Co as one of the team’s top scorers. In 1976, he received the All-Filipino Sports Award for Basketball. He won the PBA MVP award in 1979.
Co, the first player in the league to make 5,000 and 10,000 points, also played for Great Taste (1987-1988) and Manila Beer (1985-1988). In April 2000, he was named one of PBA’s 25 all-time greatest players. He was part of the first batch of professional players inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame.
“His years of playing and leading his team to victories will certainly be an invaluable asset as he coaches the Cardinals. As background for a coaching role, there can be no substitute to actual court experience that produced positive outcomes. Plus he coached the Crispa Redmanizers to back-to-back victories in 1990-1991,” Dr. Vea noted.
Co is excited and happy to be part of the Mapúa team again, this time, as its head coach. For Co, it is like a “homecoming for me.”
“Mapúa is my home. There were offers from other colleges to coach their teams before, but I turned them down. When I got a call from Mapúa, I said, ‘Why not?’ I’m a former Cardinal so it would be nice to come home,” he said.
Coaching a college basketball team is going to be a huge challenge for the former PBA star player. “For one, it is a big challenge for me to prove that I’m not only a good basketball player but a good coach as well.”
He was the coach of Crispa in the Philippine Basketball League (PBL) in 1989. Under him, Crispa won two championships in 1990 and 1991.
As coach of Mapúa Cardinals, Co’s first agenda is to ensure that his players are in tip-top shape for the upcoming 89th NCAA season. That is why, he said, he is bringing a conditioning and strengthening assistant coach to the team.
He also plans to recruit new players to add to the Cardinals’ current line-up.
He admitted that there will be some adjustments and changes in the coming months to further improve the performance of his team.
“There are a lot of factors to consider to improve our game, foremost of which are to ensure that my players are in tip-top shape and for them to have a high morale when the next NCAA season begins,” he said.
Co, who also ventured into show business and politics, is aware of the high expectations now that he is leading the Cardinals. Although he said that he and his team will do his best in the NCAA games, he maintained that he is not promising anything.
“Yes, I feel the pressure but I don’t like to make promises. We will do our best. What I would want is to see my team fighting up to the end. Hopefully, will all the support, in three years we will be playing for the championship. This year, my dream is to get into Top 4. That would be a big achievement for the team, for me and for everybody,” he said.
Former Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) player Fortunato “Atoy” G. Co, Mapúa’s new head coach, talks to the Cardinals during the team’s friendly game with PBA team Global Port Batang Pier at the Institute’s gymnasium.
Mapúa formed a five-man search committee, composed mostly of its alumni, immediately after the 88th NCAA season to look for a new head coach. Nine nominees, including five alumni, had been submitted to the committee for consideration.
Melchor P. Divina, director of Mapua’s Department of Physical Education and Athletics, said the members opted to tap an alumnus in a bid to uplift the morale not just of the basketball team but of the entire Mapúa community as well.
Co was the most popular choice, taking into account his background, skills and achievements. Divina said the committee also saw that Co could boost the morale of the school community given his sterling performance and good reputation in Philippine basketball.
Almost a month since the creation of the search committee, the members submitted their recommendation to Dr. Vea before Christmas of 2012.
Dr. Vea said: “They unanimously made a recommendation to me. The name was Atoy’s, and I more than gladly approved it.”
Both Dr. Vea and Divina expressed confidence in Co’s ability to lead the team, saying that they expect an enormous improvement in the performance of the Cardinals beginning this year.
Divina said: “He will be able to motivate our basketball athletes and push them to do their best.”
When asked, meanwhile, if he is optimistic that the Cardinals will finally grab the elusive NCAA title this year, Dr. Vea said: “I am certainly optimistic, but we will have to take it one game at a time, one possession at a time. And we will have to work very hard for it.”
Mapúa so far has a total of five championships since joining the league, with a back-to-back championship in 1990 and 1991. Mapúa, one of the strongest teams in NCAA men’s basketball tournament, has also been in the Top 4 numerous times.