Friday, August 15, 1975

Toyota Pennant: Something new, old, borrowed and permanent?

The Sports Weekly Magazine with a look back at Toyota's title victory over Crispa in the 1975 First Conference.


Sports Weekly Magazine
Published August 15-22, 1975

The year was 1973 when Dante Silverio sat on his leathery chair fronting a miniature basketball court nestled on his table; his contemplative face suddenly lit up with eagerness upon hearing what was said lightly.

"You can do it," was the repeated phrase.

Dante nodded and eyed back the player-bedecked miniature basketball court, the same area which he thought someday could give him a better share of the spotlight.

There and then, Dante was not just the owner, manager but also the basketball mind of the Toyota Comets.

The same year was when his Comets won the prestigious MICAA title in their maiden year in the star-studded league. But as quickly as the crown was secured on his head, a grave problem suddenly ensued his coach, Nilo Verona, had to return to the Seven-Up afrer a year's loan. Who's going to handle the team?

"I really believed I could do it. But many times I willed to stop and find out what I really believed," enthused Dante in a rare moment when he confided his feelings to the members of the press as he recalled that perilous moment.

Cutting it short, Dante, who is known for his independence of judgment, had to bid Niolo a sad goodbye and prepared himself for the duties and responsibilities of a coach.

Dante was a young basketball mind. Then '74, the scars and the pains of losing were there; the mirthful atmosphere and the jubilation of winning was part of it. It was not a fruitful year as expected. But it turned out to be the year of maturing for the young tactician on the Toyota bench.

"The dream of any coach to bring his team to the championship was too my dream. But I had to undergo a process of tracking that belief before it really happened," he revealed with the same tone of sincerity.

Many unbelieving souls thought Dante was a young basketball mind but won't grow up, the same claim he had to dispense with to prove to all and sundry he too can call the shots and win the game - and the title.

"He was really just maturing then. Needless, however, I must say that what was respected in him was not his immaturity but the fact that he always tried, a character he supplemented wth determination," bared a know-all company of the Komatsu executive.

Disciplined and meticulous could well describe the young coach. In prosaic fact, Dante's conduct of coaching was quite fumbling. His reputation lies and rests on his realistic accomplishments both in racing and basketball fields.

On the right choices he made occasionally can be seen the determination inherent in Dante. Just late in 1974, he brought his charges to the wings of physical fitness expert Elpidio Dorotheo to tighten their muscles and booster the power in them. It paid off and Dante won his first title when his Comets swept the Hongkong Invitations with plenty to spare.

Fanatical Toyota fans, a passionate multitude, thought this victory and Dante could be the herald of better things in the difficult wolrd of basketball.

And the pro league was born and the real test for Dante had surfaced. Would he be able to face the opposition from the best coaches in he land? His charges could be better if not better than the rest but will the coaching chores offset this? Would he be able to bear the pressure of tight games, the same disease which determines the boys from the men when it comes to coaching?

The eliminations of the first conference-phase got Dante right off the track. A jolter from the Carriers and the two successsive thrashings from the Crispa-Floro Redmanizers.

The two beatings he received from the Redmanizers were eye-openers and being such a man who knows when the odds put him at the receiving end, Dante anticipated the need for gigantic center, a department he admitted "very loose and wanting."

Came Snake and the venom spewed from all directions. At a cost of probably P40,000 a month, the first conference-phase of the PBA was Dante's. Thanks to the Snake and the support.


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