Reuben “Benji” Manio, a long time Brookwood basketball coach, died Sept. 25. He was 49.
Benji coached basketball as more than game, it was his way of teaching his players life lessons.
His 20 years at the Brookwood Basketball Association (BBA) gave him a knack for bringing out the best in his players according to Martin Blanchfield, BBA’s coaches director. “When we had a kid that was having difficulties Benji would always say ‘give him to me’.” “He would turn him around,” added Barbara Hanley, BBA’s president. “And win with him and that kid was the one who turned the team around…He was just good people.”
Benji moved to Canada from his native Philippines, where his love for the game developed. His calm characteristics and his fiery personality made him a unique coach in the eyes of many players and parents. “With any team he coached, all the parents would show up,” said Hanley. “I sometimes think parents were there to see him coach, he was so humorous to watch.”
Benji’s love of basketball passed on to his two children Michael and Marc both of whom he coached for several years.
The only time Benji did not coach in the last two decades was the prior two years. Due to complications at his work and his father’s declining health Benji felt it was best to take a Hiatus. “It was so quiet around here, Brookwood wasn’t the same,” said Blanchfield. “He didn’t want to coach because he felt he was cheating the kids. He felt if you couldn’t be there for practice, you shouldn’t be there to coach. Coaching was a privilege for him.”
A week before he passed away, Benji decided to return to coaching.
Benji’s humble personality attracted many kids to the program. “To him Brookwood was where you had to play ball,” Hanley said of his great contribution. “He always remembered the kid’s names. He would see them five years later and remember who they were and that’s very hard to do.”
Brookwood, an organization established in 1972, has seen many coaches, players, parents and referees come to learn the different aspects of basketball, but “In the end we’re here to teach repect, sportsmanship, teamwork and commitment which are all life lessons; Benji would get across,” said Blanchfield. “He didn’t have a big car or live in a big home, but he was rich. At his funeral, there was a line-up of people waiting to give their respect,” added Blanchfield.