MANILA, Philippines – Amid mixed reactions from basketball fans over Manny Pacquiao’s entry into the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) as head coach for new franchise KIA, there is at least one coach happy to welcome the world boxing champion into the professional league.
“I think it’s a welcome development to the league,” said multi-titled head coach Norman Black.
“I think it’ll bring a lot of notoriety to the league and I don’t see anything bad about it. If KIA wants to make him the coach then why not? We will welcome him with open arms.”
Pacquiao was announced head coach of the KIA franchise on Monday, June 9. The new franchise is set to make its debut in the PBA’s 40th season this October.
The news received mixed reactions from the league’s followers. Many pointed out Pacquiao’s inexperience as a head coach and aired concerns over how the 35-year old will be able to juggle his responsibilities as a congressman of Sarangani and as a boxer.
But Black, a veteran champion coach from the collegiate to the professional ranks who now calls the shots for the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters, said Pacquiao likely wouldn’t accept a job he thinks he couldn’t handle.
“I think if he takes on this responsibility it probably realizes that he can handle it so we just have to wait and see how he’s able to accomplish it,” Black explained.
“But I’m sure Manny, he’s a world boxing champion, he has accomplished a lot in his life and like I said he knows what hard work is all about. I’m sure he knows what he’s getting into.”
Pacquiao, on the other hand, has declared that basketball is his first love.
“Gusto ko lang paalam sa inyo na before boxing ang talagang hilig ko ay basketball,” said the 8-division champion and current WBO welterweight titleholder. (I just want to let you know that before boxing, I loved basketball.)
“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.)
Admitting he is a big fan of Pacquiao and has watched all his bouts, Black believes the People’s Champ will be just fine. However, he also offered a word of caution.
“Of course coaching is not an easy job. A lot of stress, a lot of hard work, a lot of pressure that goes into it so I think he’s probably going to have to learn the ropes a little bit in the coaching business here in the PBA. But he’s used to hard work and he’s used to pressure so he should do well.”
Pacquiao was asked during the KIA press conference how he thinks he’ll fare against veteran coaches like Black and 17-time champion coach Tim Cone. He acknowledged that the two coaches and their teams are “Class A” and that he’ll prepare for them by building a team focused on defense.
Black admitted he would never step into the ring with Pacquiao, but he also said he won’t back down from him on a basketball court.
“I will tell you this, I will not challenge him in the boxing ring because that’s what he does for a living and he’s a professional boxer,” he told Rappler.
“I’ll just look at it just like I look at Tim Cone and Yeng Guiao and the other coaches. He’s the opposition. He’s a competitor and I have to beat him. I can’t beat him in the ring so I’ll try to beat him on the basketball court.”
The 56-year old coach, who led the Ateneo Blue Eagles to a 5-peat championship feat in the UAAP and completed a hat-trick of Philippine Cup titles for Talk ‘N Text, also said he has never seen Pacquiao play basketball, but wouldn’t mind if ever Pacquiao decides to become a playing coach.
Despite Pacquiao being a world-renowned boxer and having brought pride and glory to the country, Black assures that nobody will give him the special treatment in the PBA.
“Once he enters the basketball court, then he’ll be treated just like everybody else. There will be no special treatment. I’m sure the other players will go at him just like they would any other player.” – Rappler.com
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