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The Best Coaches in Philippine Sports

The decade has seen excellence in sports.
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Intelligence is underrated, especially if you're limited to barking out instructions from the sidelines. Yet the great ones stand out from the rest, flexing their minds with strategies that lead their teams to great heights.

With that, Spin.ph gives a toast to the 10 best coaches and trainers of this decade in Philippine sports, giving them their due before the year comes to a close.

Take note that this list covers the years from 2010 to 2019 only and the order does not necessarily imply their respective ranks. Our apologies to those who got left out.

Freddie Roach (Manny Pacquiao)

This one needs no explanation.

Freddie Roach had Manny Pacquiao's ears for the longest time, guiding the ring gladiator to heights never before reached by any Filipino athlete before him.

He was the one in the corner when the Filipino pride reached the pinnacle of greatness this decade when Pacquiao won the vacant WBC light middleweight title against Antonio Margarito in 2010, making him an eight-division world champion.

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Although Roach wasn't on Pacquiao's side when he fought Argentinian Lucas Matthysse in 2018, the two has since reunited.

Chot Reyes (Talk 'N Text, Gilas Pilipinas)

After delivering his fourth crown for Talk 'N Text in the 2012 Philippine Cup, Chot Reyes had the world at his feet early in this decade.

He later led Gilas Pilipinas to the silver medal in the 2013 Fiba Asia Championship and booked the country a trip to the 2014 Fiba World Cup, a first since 1978. That was a memorable run as the Filipinos showed a lot of grit and gave contenders like Argentina, Greece, and Croatia, before finally salvaging a victory over Senegal.

Reyes left his post in 2014 but eventually returned in 2016, leading Gilas to the gold medal in the 2017 SEABA Championship held here.

He did have his fair share of black eyes?—Marcus Douthit's own goal in the 2014 Asian Games and the now-infamous brawl against Australia in 2018?—but the mark he left in Philippine basketball is indelible.

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Tim Cone (Alaska, B-Meg/San Mig Coffee, Ginebra, Gilas Pilipinas)

All Tim Cone does is win, and in this decade alone, he joined a rarefied club as he delivered titles to three different franchises in the PBA.

The American mentor started this year with the 2010 Fiesta Conference crown in what turned out to be his final title for Alaska.

Cone soon signed with B-Meg in 2011, where he continued his winning ways as he broke Baby Dalupan's record for most PBA rings when he got his 16th title in the 2014 Philippine Cup. That glory snowballed to the dream season for San Mig Coffee as the James Yap and Marc Pingris-led Coffee Mixers became the fifth team to achieve the grand slam.

After winning five titles with the Purefoods franchise, Cone soon found his way to Ginebra in 2015 and broke the Gin Kings' eight-year title drought in the 2016 Governors' Cup. He has since won two more crowns for the crowd darlings.

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Capping off Cone's magnificent decade was him finally bagging the elusive gold medal with Gilas Pilipinas in its run to an 18th championship in the 30th Southeast Asian Games.

Leo Austria (Adamson Soaring Falcons, San Miguel)

It's hard to imagine that Leo Austria started this decade unwanted.

Turning Adamson into a contender in the UAAP, the outspoken mentor left his post in 2013 following another dismal end to the Soaring Falcons campaign. As fate would have it, the best was still ahead of him.

Outside of San Marcelino, Austria took over the post left by the then-ailing Bobby Parks for San Miguel and steered the Beermen to the 2013 ASEAN Basketball League championship.

It was only a matter of time before Austria renewed his ties with San Miguel in the PBA, assuming the role of the head coach in 2014 as he immediately won the 2015 Philippine Cup behind June Mar Fajardo. He engineered the Beermen's dynasty this past half-decade, winning eight titles, including five straight all-Filipino cup crowns.

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Although San Miguel hasn't accomplished the rare grand slam during this stretch, there's no questioning Austria's place on this list.

Ana Santiago (Adamson Lady Falcons Softball)

At this point, dominance could no longer encapsulate what coach Ana Santiago has done for the Adamson Lady Falcons softball team.

The batters from San Marcelino have won the past nine UAAP softball titles while also establishing themselves as a breeding ground for future national team hitters.

The loaded trophy case, however, does not paint the whole picture. Santiago orchestrated an unprecedented 73-game win streak spanning from 2010 to 2016.

Although Adamson saw the end of that at the hands of UST, it was still able to achieve its main goal which was to win the softball title.

Pat Aquino (NU Lady Bulldogs, Gilas Pilipinas Women)

From one streak to another.

Coach Pat Aquino has turned the girls of National University from league doormats to world beaters as the Lady Bulldogs boast a collection of former, current, and future national team players.

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Afril Bernardino and Gemma Miranda laid the groundwork for the beginning of Lady Bulldogs' slow climb to the top, capturing their breakthrough UAAP title in 2014. Now they have six titles in the bag. What makes that feat more impressive was that it was done in the middle of a record-setting 96-game win streak.

Under Aquino's guidance, Gilas Pilipinas Women were also promoted to Division A of the Fiba Women's Asia Cup and ended its long search for gold with its triumph in the 30th Southeast Asian Games.

Mark Sangiao (Team Lakay, Philippine kickboxing)

Champions develop champions, and that's exactly what Mark Sangiao did.

The Team Lakay coach has turned his Benguet gym from a simple home of wushu warriors to a legendary den of kings as his Igorot fighters have amassed success in the world of mixed martial arts.

Six world champions, headlined by two-time ONE Lightweight Champion Eduard Folayang, current ONE Strawweight Champion Joshua Pacio, and reigning Brave Bantamweight Champion Stephen Loman, as well as UFC's Filipino fighters Dave Galera, Roldan Sangcha-an, and Mark Eddiva are all under Sangiao's banner.

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But there's more to that, with Sangiao also sharing his knowledge with the Philippine kickboxing team in the 30th Southeast Asian Games as they delivered three gold medals courtesy of Jerry Olsim, Jean Claude Saclag, and Gina Iniong.

Sangiao is truly a trail-blazer in his sport.

Ramil de Jesus (La Salle Lady Spikers, F2 Logistics, Philippine women's volleyball)

With six titles in the UAAP and four in the Philippine Super Liga, Ramil de Jesus is truly in a class of his own.

The straight-shooting coach of La Salle reached legendary status this decade when he delivered a pair of three-peats, from 2011 to 2013 and from 2016 to 2018, the last of which gave him his 11th UAAP championship to mark his 20th year at the helm of the women's volleyball program in Taft.

De Jesus' drive for a four-peat, however, came to an end in 2019 as the Lady Spikers missed their first UAAP finals after bowing to UST.

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Those who were responsible of making him one of the top mentors in the UAAP also kept that run in the PSL with F2 Logistics, as players led by Cha Cruz, Aby Marano, Ara Galang, Kim Fajardo, Dawn Macandili, Majoy Baron, and Kim Dy made sure de Jesus always had a trophy to boot since the Cargo Movers joined the league in 2016.

The only blemish in de Jesus' resume this decade was his short two-month run as the coach of the Philippine women's national team in 2018.

Aldin Ayo (Letran Knights, La Salle Green Archers, UST Growling Tigers)

Look how far Aldin Ayo has gone in a decade's time. From a simple grassroots basketball coach in Sorsogon to one of the best young bright minds in basketball today, there's no question that the charismatic mentor is one of this decade's best.

A virtual no-namer when he was given the baton by his alma mater, Ayo immediately delivered an NCAA championship in 2015 behind Mark Cruz and Kevin Racal.

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Interest soon came, with Ayo linking up with La Salle and guiding Ben Mbala, Jeron Teng, and the Green Archers to the UAAP title in 2016 and a runner-up finish a season after.

It wasn't long before he took a new challenge in University of Santo Tomas, steering the Growling Tigers to the finals in only his second year at the helm.

Nomadic as his ways were, Ayo is a proven winner wherever he goes.

Tab Baldwin (Gilas Pilipinas, Ateneo Blue Eagles)

The country hardly knew who Tab Baldwin was when he acted as a consultant to Chot Reyes back in 2013. But as the decade comes to an end, everybody has found out the caliber of the American-Kiwi mentor.

Baldwin got the Gilas Pilipinas job in 2015 and turned everyone into believers, anchoring a national team bannered by Jayson Castro, Calvin Abueva, and Terrence Romeo, to a silver medal in the 2015 Fiba Asia Championship in Changsha.

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He was also the coach in the Manila leg of the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament in 2016.

Though Baldwin was eventually taken out of his national team post, his winning luster didn't wane as Ateneo benefited from coaching prowess in the form of a UAAP three-peat, the last of which was achieved in a perfect 16-0 season with Thirdy Ravena, Isaac Go, and twins Matt and Mike Nieto leading the fight.

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Norman Black (Ateneo Blue Eagles, Talk 'N Text, Meralco)

Norman Black won the last three of his Ateneo five-peat this decade and soon found himself back in the PBA, completing the all-Filipino three-peat for Talk' N Text in the 2013 Philippine Cup. The Grand Slam-winning mentor lent a hand as an assistant coach for Gilas Pilipinas during Chot Reyes' time in charge and eventually called the shots for Meralco in 2014.

Thomas Dooley (Philippine Azkals)

American coach Thomas Dooley handled the reins for a rising Philippine men's football team in 2014 and made sure that the ascent would be sustainable, helping the Philippines reach its highest Fifa ranking at 111 in May 2018. He also steered the Azkals to their first-ever berth in the 2019 AFC Asian Cup before being sacked in 2018.

Boyet Fernandez (UP Fighting Maroons, San Beda Red Lions, NLEX, Cignal)

Boyet Fernandez tasted zero success in the UAAP when he took over University of the Philippines midway through 2010, but things turned for the better for him since. He completed the San Beda five-peat in 2013 and 2014 and got another PBA break with NLEX soon after. In 2017, he returned to the Red Lions and won another pair of titles before falling short to Letran in 2019. Fernandez is also an eight-time PBA D-League champion for NLEX and Cignal.

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This story originally appeared on Spin.ph.

* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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Randolph B. Leongson for SPIN.ph
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