MANILA, Philippines – After much speculation over the last few weeks, Manny Pacquiao was officially named head coach of the KIA Columbian Autocar Corp. franchise on Monday, June 9.
The company is one of 3 new franchises set to enter the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) in its upcoming 40th season, which will begin on October 19.
Known for his accomplishments in boxing and bringing international pride to the Philippines, the 8-division champ and current WBO welterweight titleholder seemed like an unlikely option to coach a professional basketball team.
But Pacquiao knows exactly why he decided to coach for Asia’s first play-for-pay league.
“Gusto ko lang paalam sa inyo na before boxing ang talagang hilig ko ay basketball.” (I just want to let you know that before boxing, I loved basketball.)
The 35-year old world-renowned athlete emphasized that this is a new chapter in his life after accomplishing so much already in boxing. He said basketball always had a place in his heart all these years.
“Talagang napakahilig [ko] sa basketball kaya kahit marami na akong na-accomplish sa boxing ay hindi ko pa rin makalimutan, and nandiyan pa rin sa puso ko ang basketball.” (I very much love basketball that even if I’ve already accomplished a lot in boxing, I’ve never forgotten about it and basketball is still in my heart.)
(IN PHOTOS: Manny Pacquiao announced as KIA coach)
Pacquiao, who is known to set aside at least one day from his weekly training for playing basketball, even cracked a joke that he only landed in boxing because he signed a boxing contract thinking it was basketball.
“Kailangan ko mapatunayan na hindi lamang sa larangan ng boxing, kundi sa larangan din ng basketball, na kaya ko rin magpakita ng gilas.” (I need to prove that I’m not only good at boxing, but I can also be good in basketball.)
KIA’s decision to take Pacquiao as the franchise’s head coach in its debut season was questioned by many following the PBA.
However, PBA Commissioner Chito Salud was in defense of the People’s Champ, saying that he is what the PBA is “striving to stand for.”
“Of course, there’s the wow factor, there’s the point of interest, there’s the pulling power. But I want to emphasize that Manny is the embodiment of what the PBA is striving to stand for,” Salud explained.
“And what is that? Highest degree of excellence and sportsmanship with regard to fan and public interest.”
Public service, boxing, and basketball
Perhaps the biggest concern about Paquiao taking on this new responsibility is how he will be able to juggle his commitments to public service and to boxing.
“Time management lang yan,” Pacquiao assured. “Disiplina sa sarili. Kaya natin i-handle yan.” (It’s all about time management. Self-discipline. We can handle it.)
Apart from his duties as congressman in the Sarangani province, Pacquiao has also been keeping in step with his boxing training. And as the PBA starts its next season in October, Pacquiao will likely be waist-deep in preparing for his next bout on November 23 against an unnamed opponent. At that point, the PBA will be likely be in a crucial stretch of the eliminations during the season-opening Philippine Cup conference.
“Dito naman training ko sa Pilipinas,” Pacquiao said. “Time management talaga.” (My training will be in the Philippines. It’s really about time management.)
Pacquiao’s commitment to public service may also benefit from his stint with the PBA.
Palawan Governor Jose Chavez Alvarez said that the exposure Pacquiao will inevitably get from coaching could boost his chances should he wish to run for higher office in the future.
“Pag nagco-coaching siya doon sa floor, siyempre naka-focus sa kanya yung telebisyon. Eh alam mo na kung anong susunod noon,” Alvarez explained. “Pag buong bansa ay nakatingin sayo, ang behavior mo doon sa floor, baka hindi lang siya maging Congressman.”
(When he’s coaching on the floor, of course he will be focused on TV. And you know what comes next. When the entire nation is looking at you, and your behavior on the floor, he may become more than a congressman.)
Alvarez clarified that he is not implying that is Pacquiao’s intention.
“Tingin ko lang yun. Pero hindi ko sinasabi na yun ang ambisyon niya. Kasi nung makilala ko siya talagang naglalaro na siya ng basketball.” (That’s just my opinion. I’m not saying that’s Manny’s ambition. Because when I met him, he was already playing basketball.)
Among the early speculations swirling was that Pacquiao might join the PBA as a playing coach, like Robert Jaworski once was for Ginebra.
Pacquiao addressed those speculations, saying that while he is open to the idea, his focus for now is on being a head coach.
“Sa ngayon ay head coach ako. Yung paglalaro hindi pa natin alam yan,” he said.
“Basta ang focus ko ngayon is sa pagco-coach, kumuha ng magagaling na players and maging magaling na team.”
(For now I’m head coach. We don’t know yet about playing. My focus right now is coaching, to get good players and to become a good team.)
Salud also maintained that the final decision on the matter will still remain with Pacquiao. Though should Pacquiao wish to become a playing coach, he must go through the annual PBA Rookie Draft like all rookies do. The 2014 PBA Rookie Draft is slated to happen on August 24.
“I will follow the rules and regulations of the PBA,” Pacquiao said.
As of posting, Pacquiao said he still hasn’t formed a team. But when he does, he plans on putting them through hard training.
“Hindi naman natin sinasabi yung mga makukuha natin players ay [baka] hindi ganoon talaga kagaling,” said Pacquiao, who also said he already has a coaching staff, which will be announced at a later time.
“Pero pagagalingin namin yun. Dadaan sila sa training na gagawin ko sa kanila.”
(We’re not saying that the players we will get won’t be that good, but we will make them good. They will go through my training.)
But what experience does Pacquiao have in coaching?
“Actually may team ako since 2005 to 2012,” Pacquiao bared. “Sumali kami sa Liga Pilipinas (a now defunct regional basketball league).” (Actually I had team since 2005 to 2012. We joined Liga Pilipinas.)
Pacquiao said the experience he gained from Liga Pilipinas will definitely come into play for KIA. But he maintained his biggest edge is taking his boxing skills and experience with him to basketball.
“Magagamit ko siguro yung experience ko as a boxer especially sa training,” he said, even joking right after, “And yung mga player maghanda na sila.”
(I could use my experience as a boxer especially in trainings. The players need to get ready.)
Asked how he feels going up against multi-titled coaches such as Tim Cone and Norman Black, Pacquiao acknowledged that those coaches and their players are “Class A” and he will focus on defense.
Pacquiao’s modest goal for his team next conference is to simply do well enough and not embarrass KIA. He said he hopes to build a defense-oriented team that likes to run, which is why building stamina will be part of Pacquiao’s training.
“Pwedeng paghaluin yung ginagawang training ng boxing and basketball,” he said. (I can combine boxing and basketball training.) – Rappler.com
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