IN THE PBA, he was simply known as “The Fireman” while playing for the league’s most popular team Barangay Ginebra.
Before that, he was “King Tiger” of the University of Santo Tomas in the UAAP.
The 5-11 guard from Quezon City brought the words “Pride, Puso, Palaban” to the vocabulary of the Growling Tigers, leading them to two UAAP runner-up finishes in 1984 and 1985 as a player and finally the UAAP championship in 2006 as a coach.
In the PBA, there were no never-say-die Gin Kings without the “Fireman”.
He did not invent the words never say die for Ginebra. PBA legend Robert Jaworski did. But he helped popularize it with his own brand of fighting spirit.
And to this day, Alfredo “Pido” Jarencio remains the “Fireman” and “King Tiger” with his fiery demeanor and resolve on and and off the court.
Jarencio, who turned 56 years old last Sept. 5, did not just go about life with the silence of an altar boy. He slugged it out like a true fighter.
His last name, after all, was a combination of the names of two of the country’s never-say die players, Jaworski and Florencio.
On the playing court at the Big Dome in Cubao or the old reliable Rizal Coliseum in Vito Cruz, he looks as if he just stepped out of the pages of a Carlo Caparas’ action-packed novel.
He always looks as if he is a man sent on a mission with a special set of skills like Hollywood star Liam Neeson. He is always ready. He is always armed and dangerous once his number is called.
He looks as if he is always looking around to find people who need help or as his monicker would suggest, prevent fire from turning into conflagration. The “Mailman” always rings twice but the “Fireman” is almost always there in the middle of the firestorm.
If you’re a coach, you’d always want the ball in Jarencio’s hands with the shot clock fast running out, the score tied and the game — even the championship — on the line.
You’d want him to play the most minutes, take the most attempts and score the most points in the game, like UST coach Charlie Badion did when Jarencio scored a league-record 48 points in UST’s 99-114 loss to Allan Caidic and University of the East for the 1984 UAAP basketball championship.
You’d want him to continue to handle the basketball in another crack at the elusive UAAP championship the following year, like coach Aric del Rosario did in 1985.
You’d even want your son to play like him and learn under him, like Alvin “Robocop” Teng did when his son Jeric Teng joined the España-based team of Jarencio in 2009.
His shooting touch from the long court and his barreling drives to the basket make even the best defenders in the game shake their heads in disbelief.
He has this ability to create shots and make his teammates look twice as good while on the playing court.
When he retired in the PBA in 2001, he left a lasting legacy that will also be very hard to match.
As a player, Jarencio was a three-time champion in 1985 PBA Reinforced Conference (with Northern Cement), 1987 PBA Reinforced Conference (with San Miguel Beer) and 1997 PBA Commissioner’s Cup (with Ginebra).
He was also a two-time PBA All-Star in 1992 and 1993 nd was voted as the Most Improved Player in 1992.
Overall, he finished with 6,121 career points with six different teams in 16 years in the PBA.
As a coach, he always gets it done his special way.
Every player he’s handled from UST to NorthPort vouch for his unique style of coaching.
Jarencio has this ability to motivate and inspire his players to get them sublimate their welfare to the good of the cause.
Former NorthPort player Kelly Nabong narrates how Jarencio pacified him during a heated game in the PBA.
“I was talking to one of the referees and I got hot-headed that coach Pido grabbed me and told me, “Kelly, kiss me, give me a kiss.”
That was enough to calm Nabong down.
Well, Jarencio is no longer playing ball these days.
The “Fireman” now takes the floor only during games of the PBA Legends in provinces and even in other countries.
But Jarencio is still very much around as head coach of the NorthPort Batang Pier in the PBA.
Maybe you didn’t see him play basketball for UST and even Barangay Ginebra.
But you can catch him again making plays and shouting instructions as coach of the Batang Pier when the PBA restarts its pandemic-disrupted season.
The fun and excitement will still be there.
Happy birthday, Coach.
NOTES — Happy birthday, too, to NorthPort Batang Pier team manager and Letran College coach Bonnie Tan, who celebrated on Sept. 9…Birthday greetings also to Ryan Ripalda.
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