Carlos “The Big Difference” Loyzaga will always be the country’s Mr. Basketball. His contributions both to the NCAA and MICAA, coaching both the amateur and professional ranks will always be a footnote compared to his contributions while wearing the three stars and sun during his prime back in the 50’s and 60’s. His heroics on the court while leading the “Philippine Islanders” (the monicker of our National Team back in the day) solidified the country as a basketball powerhouse not only in Asia but also in the entire planet, as evident in the country’s 3rd place finish at the 1954 FIBA World Championship (to date the highest finish by an Asian country in the quadrennial event). He also had numerous championships in both the Asian qualifiers and Far East Games and helped the San Beda Red Lions win 3 titles in the 1950’s and perpetually own the Zamora Trophy.
The following is an article written by my college friend Jonas Terrado. Like me, he shares my love for basketball. Here is his tribute to the man who, in my opinion, without a shadow of a doubt, is, was, and forever will be The Greatest Ballplayer in Philippine Basketball. One of the best in the world. Carlos Loyzaga.
Basketball great Loyzaga dies at 85
Carlos Loyzaga, the man considered as the greatest Filipino to play basketball and whose moniker “The Great Difference” epitomized his role and impact as the player who can do it all, died yesterday. He was 85.
His son, former PBA player Chito Loyzaga, said the elder Loyzaga died of cardiac arrest after being hospitalized for almost two weeks at the Cardinal Santos Hospital due to pneumonia.
The family was expecting him to be discharged when he passed away unexpectedly.
The iconic basketball player who lifted the Philippines to unprecedented heights in international basketball, including a third place finish in the 1954 FIBA World Championship, had been in failing health for years.
“His basketball accomplishments were well-known, but most people don’t know that he was a lovely husband, a good father and a good friend. He lived a good life and played for flag and country with a passion,” Chito said, adding that the public viewing of Caloy’s wake will start this morning at the Arlington Memorial Chapel.
Besides being “The Great Difference,” he was also nicknamed “King Caloy,” a tribute to his lording it over Philippine basketball which ever uniform he wore.
“For a star player, I don’t remember that he figured in any controversy,” said Philippine Olympic Committee President Jose “Peping” Cojuangco Jr. yesterday after learning of Caloy’s death.
Former International Olympic Committee representative to the Philippines Frank Elizalde, whose company in the 1950s was where Loyzaga played, echoed Cojuangco’s sentiments about the 6-foot-3 legend.
“At that time he was really the big difference because he stood head and shoulders over most of his teammates,” said Elizalde, whose family owned YCO Paints in the MICAA.
“He was a very good person and he will never be forgotten,” said Elizalde.
After being discovered in a basketball lot in Sta. Mesa, Manila, Loyzaga went on to become the toast of the basketball-crazy Filipinos. He first made his mark while playing for San Beda where he led the Red Lions to two straight NCAA championships in 1951 and 1952, and a third one came in 1955.
Such was Loyzaga’s incredible skill as a player that while in college, he led the Philippines in the 1952 Olympics.
But it was in the 1952 NCAA title game that Loyzaga cemented his legend.
He was hailed as the hero of the Red Lions’ 50-39 win over the Green Archers at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum when he scored most of his 18 points in the final half to seal the crown.
“Carlos Loyzaga was terrific, and that was the big advantage San Beda had over La Salle in last night’s NCAA cage finals,” then Bulletin Sports Editor Jimmie Lacsamana said in his column. “The ‘golden boy’ of local courts was calm, calculating and devastating. He’s some basketball power. That’s it – Loyzaga’s cage power routed La Salle’s quintet of six-footers.”
After winning his final NCAA championship for the Red Lions in 1955, Loyzaga shifted his focus on the commercial league.
But before doing so, Loyzaga had one of his greatest performances when he carried the Philippines to third place in the World Championship held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Loyzaga averaged 16.4 points per game in the tournament, capping off his great campaign with a 20-point performance in a 66-60 victory over France and a 33-point explosion in a 67-63 triumph over Uruguay to seal third place honors.
“Loyzaga, the tallest man on the Philippine squad, repeatedly provided the spark which enabled the Islanders to tie or pass Uruguay,” the Associated Press said in its game story.
He also played in the 1956 Olympic Games, won four Asian Games gold medals (1951, ‘54, ‘58, ‘62) and two Asian Basketball Confederation Championships (1960 and ‘63) even as a playing coach steered YCO to multiple MICAA and national seniors championships, mostly at the expense of bitter rival Ysmael Steel.
He ended his playing career in 1964 to concentrate on coaching full-time. He guided University of Santo Tomas to the UAAP championship over Far Eastern University that same year.
His best coaching accomplishment came in 1967 when he steered the Philippines to its third Asian Championship with a hard-fought 83-80 win over host South Korea in the finals in Seoul.
“All our players are good and I could use all of them whenever I wanted,” he said in a United Press International article. “There’s little difference in quality among our players.”
His dirty dozen included team captain Alberto Reynoso, Orlando Bauzon, Narciso Bernardo, Danny Florencio, whose late basket gave the Filipinos a timely cushion, Jimmy Mariano, Tembong Melencio, Ed Ocampo, Adriano Papa Jr., Renato Reyes, Joaquin Rojas Jr., Edgardo Roque and Robert Jaworski.
The Philippine cagers received a warm welcome upon their arrival. One well-wisher flashed a sign saying “Loyzaga. Pogi Na, Goli Pa” as the coach was mobbed by the adoring crowd at the airport.
He was also an assistant coach to the late Tito Eduque when the Nationals repeated over the Koreans in the finals, 90-78, in the 1973 ABC finals held at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum, the country’s fourth ABC crown.
Loyzaga eventually had two spells as PBA coach with U-Tex and Tanduay, before watching his sons Chito and Joey play in the pro ranks. His daughters, Bing and Teresa, found their own niches in the showbiz industry. (With report from Nick Giongco)