Fernandez doubly grateful

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    COMMISSIONER Ramon Fernandez of the Philippine Sports Commission has fond memories of the late basketball coach and BEST Center founder Nic Jorge, recalling the times the latter came to his rescue not once but twice.

    “My condolences to Jorge’s widow, Marilyn. Nic and I go a long way back,” Fernandez said of his personal experiences with the mentor and “gentle giant,” who passed away in his sleep last Saturday.

    The four-time PBA Most Valuable Player said that Jorge became a life-saver for the first time during his playing days with the Toyota Tamaraws.

    “I had the Walking Talking basketball clinic in the summer (of) 1979 with around 120 kids at the Meralco gym with the late Fort Acuna as my assistant helping me out,” he said. “But the clinic was in conflict with my practice schedule and asked Nic to sub for me the weekends.

    “If I recall right, he just came back from the US attending a basketball course for children at Louisiana State University. I think that is where he saw a market for conducting cage clinics.”

    From thereon, the Cebu-based PSC official said, “I would be around to guest at Nic’s BEST Center clinics whenever they would be held in the Visayas, especially those that were handled by former Tamaraw teammate Ompong Segura.”

    The second occasion likely saved his life literally, Fernandez said. He recalled that in 1983 he went on vacation in Singapore where Jorge was already the coach of the Singaporean national squad.

    “I was supposed to take a cable car ride at the Sentosa resort but had to skip it because I was invited by Nic to give a pep talk to the Singapore team in the afternoon,” the two-time Asian Games veteran said.

    As fate would have it on Jan. 29, 1983, the day Fernandez was supposed to take the trip, the cable car ride suffered a highly-publicized tragic incident, claiming 33 lives.

    “If not for Jorge’s invitation I may not be around anymore,” Fernandez said.