MANILA, MARCH 26, 2007
(STAR) By Nelson Beltran - Coach Tim Cone wore black and paid tribute to late league commissioner Jun Bernardino then buckled down to work as the Alaska Milk Aces smothered the Coca-Cola Tigers, 106-100, to regain a share of second place in the Talk n Text PBA Fiesta Cup at the Araneta Coliseum last night.

Cone and his chargers established control early but had to quell a searing Coca-Cola uprising in the fourth quarter to complete the win they later dedicated to the departed league commissioner.

"Commissioner Jun is special to me. He selected me to become the coach of the RP team to the 1998 Asian Games. He stuck with me through thick and thin. That was the greatest honor I ever had," said Cone.

"My regret was that I never told him that. I had a chance as we shared a round of drink but didn’t say that. I regret that," Cone added.

After shower, the entire Alaska team proceeded to the Magallanes Chapel in Makati to pay their last respects to Bernardino.

Falling behind by 17 at 50-67, the Tigers refused to just roll over and die, waging a fightback in the fourth quarter presided over by third-string guard Leo Avenido.

But the Aces just won’t be denied, calling on Willie Miller and Rossel Ellis to preserve the win that enabled them to catch up with Red Bull at second place on similar 4-1 win-loss records. The Tigers slid to 3-3.

"We always have a tough battle with Coke. They’re definitely a contender, a real strong team. Luckily, we held on in the end," said Cone.

After the first game, the league offered a minute of silence for Bernardino then the Barangay Ginebra Kings and the San Miguel Beermen plunged into action.

The Kings emerged triumphant, pulling off a 102-84 victory as they kept their mastery of the Beermen whom they beaten in six games in the recent Philippine Cup finals.

PBA family remembers Bernardino The Philippine Star 03/26/2007

To people who really know the late Emilio "Jun" Bernardino, the long-time PBA commissioner was not only a leader but also man of integrity and character, a true friend and great mentor.

Two days after his death due to cardiac arrest, tribute continued to pour in for the PBA top honcho from 1994-2002.

The PBA was business as usual yesterday at the Araneta Coliseum but the mood was somber and gloomy with about everybody mourning the loss of the former commissioner.

Officials, coaches, players and employes shared personal experiences with the league chief called Jun B, Ibok or Kume.

"Commissioner Jun B was the one who hired me. But before giving me a job in the PBA, he recommended me first to the PBL to get my feet wet. Whatever we have achieved in the PBA, his mentoring was a big influence," said PBA technical chief Perry Martinez.

"His point of view was different. We may not be doing the same thing, but when we discuss things, we put on the table the perspective how it’s done before," said Martinez.

"He’s a different kind of a boss. He’s a boss and a friend at the same time. But he called a spade a spade. If you’re wrong, you’re wrong. He would not defend wrong calls to the ball clubs," said assistant technical chief Jun Cordero, who was a referee during Bernardino’s time as commissioner.

"To me, he’s a boss and father at the same time. My dad has long gone and Commissioner Jun B knew it. He treated me like a daughter. Actually, we’re like a big family in the office and he’s our father," said Odessa Encarnacion, a former SGV auditor recruited by Bernardino to be the PBA accountant seven years ago.

Bong Hawkins, Alfrancis Chua and Itoy Esguerra were among those who underscored the fact that Bernardino did not just serve the interests of the ball clubs but also the welfare of individuals in the league.

Under Bernardino’s watch, Hawkins, Chua and Esguerra won contractual disputes with different teams. These cases involved millions of pesos the Commissioner’s Office awarded the three individuals.

"Parehas iyang si Kume. Malaki ang naitulong sa kaso namin," said Esguerra.

Bernardino was also hailed as commissioner with a heart for the fans.

"I can’t forget the PBA’s first trip in Zamboanga. We were done with the tree-planting program. While all the players were already back in the buses, Kume was still under the searing midday sun, accommodating the fans," said league staffer Joy Lopez.

Bernardino, of course, had his ups and downs, joys and sorrows in the league. He shed tears as the all-pro team to the Busan Asian Games, missed a shot at the gold medal on a last-second three-pointer by Korea.

"That was the time I became closest with him. He gave his all-out support to the team and the country’s cause," said then RP team coach Jong Uichico.

"When we lost, he really felt for the team. Sama-sama kaming umiyak," Uichico added. – Nelson Beltran

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved