RUMOR: Given the chance, Robert Jaworski is willing to return as coach of Barangay Ginebra.
FACTS: If you went to the luncheon tendered for him on Friday (June 29) expecting answers from Jaworski with regards to his future plans, then you don’t know the man. For one, the PBA’s most popular player of all time has always been vague about his personal plans and, as we saw on Friday, still was. Secondly, Jaworski will never express willingness to take on a job unless there is an offer on the table.
On Friday, the farthest he would go was say that he was ready for a new challenge. Asked by the Inquirer’s Francis Ochoa if he was willing to return as coach of Barangay Ginebra, he said: “I can have healthy initiatives in that direction … I’m ready to take the challenge.”
To gain more insight into Jaworski’s plans, you have to turn to people in his inner circle, who are few. And talks with these longtime friends, who have stayed fiercely loyal to the Big J all these years, have given us a better grasp of what jobs and endeavors still appeal to the cage icon at age 66.
A return to Ginebra seemed the most logical step, they agreed. Jaworski and Ginebra, after all, will forever be linked to each other, much like Magic and the Lakers, or Michael and the Bulls. Besides, Ginebra at this point looked due for a coaching change, and a Jaworski on its bench will result in a big publicity windfall, not only for the team but for the brand.
One confidante said Jaworski even turned down a couple of lucrative offers from other pro teams in the past because “he couldn’t bear the thought of coaching against Ginebra.”
Also, it appears time has healed the wounds caused by his acrimonious parting with the team in the late nineties. His relationship with San Miguel Corp. chairman Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco – as well as the people around the Big Boss – has been better, friends insist, and Jaworski has nothing but admiration and respect for the new man calling the shots at SMC, Ramon Ang.
However, does the Ginebra job still appeal to him? Will the daily grind of trying to win PBA games and championships against coaches young enough to be his sons still interest him?
“Hindi s’ya ganoon ka-interesado sa Ginebra,” another close associate, who spoke on the condition that he not be named, said. “But if Mr. Ramon Ang asks him to do it, I don’t think he’ll say no.”
A return to politics also seemed out of the question. A top official at San Miguel revealed that the former senator has even expressed willingness to sign a waiver that he won’t be running for public office again in the event he assumes a position in sports.
At this point in his life when his biggest motivation is to give back to a sport that has been so good to him, close friends say two positions could easily lure the Big J out of hibernation. One is a return to the national team; the other is either as chairman of the Philippine Sports Commission, or its equivalent in a planned Department of Sports.
But nothing interests the Big J more than calling the shots for the national team again. This was bared by an SMC insider who has been in talks with the Big J of late, and later validated by a close Jaworski associate.
Two questions, however, are begging for answers. Will the position be offered to him? And does he still have what it takes to be successful at it, 22 years after he led the first Philippine team of professional players to a silver-medal finish behind China in the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing?
Jawo has no doubt in his mind, friends say. But do the people now running the national team program, people mainly from Manny Pangilinan’s camp, think so, too?