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GTB: Jessica Plays The Never Game

Jessica Mendoza spills the beans on players! Coaches! Co-courtside reporters! Mang Tom Urbano!
by Gelo Gonzales | Feb 2, 2013
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“If there’s one thing I’ve learned…” God, I love that line. You’re always assured of either a nugget of wisdom or a chunk of idiocy at the end of it. Either way, it’s at least entertaining. Often that statement issues forth as an advice or warning to those looking to follow in the footsteps of the speaker.

Now, I’m only one season and one conference into the PBA and barely four years into sports broadcasting in general, but somehow I feel like I’ve learned more than just one thing in the course of my work. In fact, I’ll declare it with confidence: I’ve learned a lot. Some of it came as counsel from my elders. Others I gathered through experience. But most of the knowledge I’ve gained is, for some reason, regarding what not to do.

I’m not selfish. I like to share. So to those who wish to make it in the PBA or UAAP as reporters or broadcasters, as well as to those who wonder what the hell goes on behind the scenes, I hereby present my lessons learned…

…about the coaches and the people who work with them:

NEVER get too close to Coach Tim Cone during an in-game huddle. You will receive a Look. Don’t get me wrong; Coach Tim is a marvelous man, a nice guy, and a brilliant coach. But distract his players during a game by trying to sidle up to him while he’s explaining the next play? Bad idea.

Also, NEVER try talking to Coach Tim when he’s losing, angry, or ejected from a game. There is a fair chance of a death stare (different from a Look) and/or a door in your face. In the same vein, DO try talking to Coach Yeng Guiao when he’s losing, angry, or ejected from a game. You’ll get something quotable for sure.

NEVER interview Coach Ryan Gregorio without a pen and paper in hand. Or better yet, carry a recording device, as he will not only give you a worthy quote (or ten of them), he will also ask if you got his entire answer verbatim. You could write a whole article off a single question to that man.

NEVER expect Coach Chot Reyes to be at the dugout with much time to spare before tipoff. He arrives at his own pace, probably to make sure his outfit is just right. Imaging is key, after all. Learn to stay on your toes waiting for him to arrive, or else befriend his coaching staff.

On that note, NEVER underestimate the friendship of student managers and assistant coaches. I would never have gotten through my years in the UAAP without the kindness, patience, and constant teasing of the student managers of the Blue Eagles (there’s a photo below that embodies what they ribbed me about for two years—you’ll know it when you see it). And I continue to rely on assistant coaches—Coach Sandy, Coach Jeff, Coach Caloy, everyone else!—in my weekly fight for survival in the PBA.

…about the players:

NEVER ask for James Yap later than two hours before a game. Once they’ve started on his massage and therapy, there will be no interrupting the subsequent taping of his ankles, signing of autographs, and fixing of his hair (okay, I made that last one up—but I feel like it happens). By then you will have lost all time waiting outside the San Mig dugout. Know when to approach.

NEVER mention a player’s love life on-air. Or at least not Alex Cabagnot’s. That boy teaches lessons the hard way.

NEVER talk smack about Twilight in front of Cliff Hodge. Or, apparently, Chris Ross or Sol Mercado. Twi-hards in da house! (Photo via

NEVER ask Mike Cortez about his time with Coach Franz Pumaren in La Salle. Just don’t, okay? Leave the past be.

NEVER follow Paul Lee on Twitter if you don’t want to hear about his love life. Did you know that he and his “baby” spent their first monthsary of 2013 in Singapore? Or that they recently spent bonding time at a spa? Or that they wear color-coordinated outfits?

NEVER judge a player by his cover. Ali Peek might look like a tattooed version of He-Man, but he’s a total sweetheart. Dylan Ababou might look like a choir boy, but he’s a total clown—super kulit.

NEVER hesitate to ask one player for info on another. I once engaged JJ Helterbrand in conversation about Mark Caguioa. He told me that Mark often reminds him to drink milk so that his knees can regain some of their youthful strength. Then JJ said that Mark loves eating so much that if he weren’t a basketball player, he’d be…well, quite rotund (and that’s not the phrase he used at all). You’ve got to admire the love these players have for one another.

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NEXT: Jessica on interviewing Fil-Ams, a wet Erika Padilla, and that famous picture of her and Ryan Buenafe!

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