Last Sunday, we hosted a mini-get together for the San Beda Red Lions to celebrate the birthday of two of our stay-in alagas, Jover and Du. Jover took care of the guestlist, and on top of his list, was their former coach, Nash Racela, now assistant coach to Chot Reyes of the San Miguel Beermen in the PBA. It all began when we bumped into Coach Nash and his family at Cafe Bola in Araneta Center. It was a reunion of sorts since we haven’t seen Coach Nash since he left San Beda, after a melodramatic episode and sad goodbyes. Jover went on to invite Coach Nash to his birthday blowout but we were not pinning our hopes on it since Coach said that they had a lot of out of town games and the day might fall on a game day. But we still kept wishing.
When the day came, we were still unsure if he will show up. All the other members of the team did not know he was coming. We kept it as a surprise. So everyone’s jaws dropped when Coach came with his whole family! We just texted him our address, he didn’t even ask for directions. We just found them at our doorstep with a San Miguel t-shirt, signed by all members of his team, for the birthday celebrant! It surely made Jover’s day, and his Christmas for that matter.
The players were pleasantly surprised to see their former coach. As a mere spectator, I marveled at how they maintained their rapport. Coach Nash was not only a coach on court but a guardian in life. He constantly reminded the players to give priority to their studies. He even joked that he still knew someone from the Registrar’s Office so he could monitor all their grades. He taught them of social graces and respect for others. He remembered each of the players’ girlfriends. There was a nostalgic air around, blending perfectly with the cool Christmas breeze. They laughed as they reminisced about old times. During those trying times of Season 81, the players realized the road to glory was much much longer than the 2006 campaign. They were reminded that a quiet tactician helped engineer the team that we now call champions of the NCAA, the San Beda Red Lions.
Excerpts of the movie, Coach Carter, ran through my mind. Nash was a guiding light to these players. So now I understand how painful it was for these players to lose such an influence in their lives. But now, it became clear to both the players and Coach Nash, their ties was never broken. The bond was always there. Before Nash was the shepherd and the players, his herd. Now, they are friends…
This wonderful encounter gave me a different sense of Christmas. It was about facing the painful past before you look ahead into the bright future. I felt so happy watching them together, like they were never apart. I might never be able to translate into words what experience I had. But I know it changed me, and all the others present there that night.
Thank you, Coach Nash. It’s nice having you around, again.