Black wields magic once more

Posted at 01/21/2013 5:22 PM

To be clear, winning championships isn’t supposed to be this easy. In the case of Norman Black, however, he sure makes it look that way.

After spending eight years coaching the Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles in the UAAP and leading them to five straight championships, Black made his way back to the league where he first made his name in the 1980s. And seemingly without missing a beat, “That Old Black Magic” weaved his coaching wizardry once more, leading the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters to the 2013 Philippine Cup championship via a sweep.

Visitor from Baltimore

When Norman Augustus Black first played for Tefilin in Philippine Basketball Association in 1981, it was for the lure of guaranteed money that first brought the 6-foot-5 forward from the Detroit Pistons to our shores.

It didn’t take long for his work ethic, scoring, rebounding, and defense to get noticed by the smart PBA fans.

It was that same hardworking attitude, and the fact that he played a game with broken arm, that earned him the league’s first “Mister 100% Award.”

After stints playing for Great Taste Coffee, Magnolia and Alaska with varying degrees of success, Black became playing coach for the San Miguel Beermen, receiving the nod from San Miguel big boss, Danding Cojuangco.

Already doing work as a commentator on some PBA games, Black’s knowledge and insights into basketball proved he was meant to be a head coach. Coaching such PBA luminaries as Mon Fernandez, Samboy Lim, Hector Calma and Ricardo Brown, it didn’t take long for Black to start collecting titles with SMB. In 1989, the Beermen won all three PBA conferences, becoming just the second franchise after the Crispa Redmanizers to win the coveted “Grand Slam.”

After stops coaching Mobiline and Pop Cola, Black won his last PBA title in 2001 for the Sta. Lucia Realtors.

Black and blue champions

By 2004, however, Black had been tapped by Manny Pangilinan to be consultant to his beloved Ateneo Blue Eagles in the UAAP. When Sandy Arespacochaga was not retained as coach, Black took on the coaching duties of the team that last won the title in 2002.

Through a combination of key recruiting, scouting and Black’s adjustments, Ateneo once again became a collegiate basketball powerhouse. The Eagles became the envy of opposing schools, hardly losing games with Black at the helm. When all was said and done, Mr. 100% had given “the Hail Mary squad” an unbelievable five straight UAAP Championships and the adoration of Ateneans everywhere.

Back in the pros

Still, Black heeded the call of his chief backer in Pangilinan. MVP needed someone to take over his Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters in the PBA as Chot Reyes was tasked with handling the Gilas-Pilipinas national team.

The only man Pangilinan could trust with this responsibility was the venerable Black. The coach first secured his historic five-peat over the UST Growling Tigers before moving to the TNT bench.

It didn’t take long, however, for his fingerprints to be seen all over the Texters. Already an explosive offensive powerhouse, the quintet suddenly became obsessed with defense too. A bruising series with the upstart Alaska Aces notwithstanding, the scene was set for Talk ‘N Text to win an unprecedented third straight Philippine Cup.

Standing in their way was the most recent PBA champions, the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. Famous for their physical play and deep bench, Coach Yeng Guiao was supposed to deliver a challenge worthy of Black and his Texters. Here was a team who could match TNT in terms of depth and explosiveness. And with Guiao, you had another PBA coaching veteran who’s been known to get the most out of supposedly less talented players.

How sweep it is

In the end though, this was a massacre. With Philippine Cup Best Player of the Conference Jayson Castro and former MVP Jimmy Alapag in the backcourt, with Ali Peek and another former MVP in Kelly Williams banging in the paint, with Larry Fonacier providing long-range shooting, with Jared Dillinger and Ryan Reyes doing the dirty deeds on defense, and with Philippine Cup Finals MVP Ranidel de Ocampo scoring at will both inside and outside, it was only a matter of time before the championship was theirs.

The 105-82 final score in Game Four of the Finals not only gave the Texters the championship over Guiao’s Elasto Painters. It also meant the Jun Bernardino Trophy now belongs permanently to MVP’s team, a direct result of winning this most prestigious of the PBA’s three annual tournaments.

It is the first sweep in the Finals since B-Meg swept Alaska in 2010. This title also capped off a dazzling seven month-run for Black, beginning with the start of the 75th UAAP season and culminating in this, his 11th PBA title as coach.

Applying the knowledge he has gained from all the years of playing as an import and coaching both professionals and college players, Black has risen to the mountaintop and staked his claim once again as a mentor for the ages. Only the legendary Virgilio “Baby” Dalupan with 15 titles, and San Mig Coffee’s Tim Cone with 14, rank above him in coaching success.

The scary thing that the rest of the league has to deal with is, Black seems to be revitalized after his UAAP stint and is hungrier than ever for more championships in his return to pro hoops. With a roster like he has at his command, nobody should be surprised if That Old Black Magic just keeps adding to his championship collection.