Manny Pacquiao: Jack of all trades

Edwin G. Espejo
Manny Pacquiao: Jack of all trades
Boxer. Congressman. PBA coach. Manny Pacquiao is stretching himself thin but there are other pros & cons in his decision to head the KIA expansion team

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, Philippines – I always thought having boxing great Manny Pacquiao coach and play for a Philippine pro basketball team was a mere publicity stunt until it was formally announced in a press conference Monday.

Many raised eyebrows wondering what Pacquiao could do as a full-time coach, and a playing one at that. Many are saying he would not even qualify to play for a competitive amateur league without playing for his own team. 

And that is what exactly Pacquiao has done. He owns the MP Warriors-Gensan in the Mindanao division of the Mindanao-Visayas Basketball League, a farm league of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (Anybody heard of them?). Pacquiao occasionally plays for his own team when not in training or attending his duties as member of Philippine Congress.

Like most gifted athletes, Pacquiao has other sports passions. He confessed basketball was a first love before he was hooked up with boxing. Pacquiao, at 5-foot-6 1/2, however is as good as a basketball player as he is a good singer and movie actor.

So when KIA Motors announced it is hiring Pacquiao as playing coach, one wonders if the 8-division world boxing champion now owns a share of the distributor of the Korean car manufacturer in the Philippines.

He is now setting aside his dreams of playing in the PBA. Only KIA would have the temerity of drafting a 35-year old rookie. And it would be a travesty of Asia’s first pro basketball league if the PBA will forego its own draft rule just to accommodate Pacquiao in the league.

A perfunctory look at the KIA Motors team management, however, points to Eric Pineda as its team manager. Pineda happens to be the business manager of Pacquiao, too.

So there you go connecting the dots.

(IN PHOTOS: Manny Pacquiao announced as KIA coach)

But is basketball coach Pacquiao good for the PBA?

Given that Pacquiao has practically abdicated his congressional seat by skipping sessions when in training, it is either coaching or boxing that will suffer when conflict between PBA coaching duties and fight training schedule arises.  

I think KIA Motors needs Pacquiao more than Pacquiao needs another day job as coaching is a 24/7 profession unlike congress and boxing when there are breaks in between. Being an expansion team, KIA Motors will not be immediately competitive. It will take years before it will become a championship caliber team.

Ever wonder why PBA teams are named after product brands and not cities like the NBA?  Because teams have to sell. And the PBA has to sell. PBA teams, however, do not have home courts where they can sell tickets, team merchandises and get pledges from states and giant corporations for the upkeep of their arenas. They only have corporate owners who charge their team expenses to advertisements and entertainment that could be tax deductible.

Translating team exposure into sales is what matters most for KIA. Having Pacquiao as head coach, no matter how nominal it will turn out to be, is a publicity and PR coup.

Pacquiao will surely rake in the fans if only for the curiosity of seeing how he will run a pro ball team. It will keep him and KIA in the conversation. People will take a second look at KIA vehicles that are now competing with car models of established manufacturers such as Toyota, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Ford. The Philippines, after all, is a car seller’s market.

But the novelty will eventually die down just as many have already quit following Pacquiao during sessions in Congress. In the latter case, absence definitely does not make the heart grow fonder.

This is where the coaching job for KIA Motors comes in handy for Pacman. Pacquiao needs to be omnipresent if he is serious with his Philippine Senate run in 2016. What better way than having his name and face continuously flashed all over the live telecasts of PBA games featuring his team.

Pacquiao will win a Senate seat hands down – with or without the PBA coaching job. Not even PBA legend Robert Jaworski and gun-slinging Lito Lapid of the Filipino cowboy movies enjoyed the phenomenal popularity Pacquiao has achieved and enjoyed. He does not need another packaging. In fact more can do him harm.

There is no problem with Pacquiao doing multi-task jobs.

But he cannot be the jack of all trades all the times.

Somehow, somebody has to draw the line between fantasy and reality. –

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