CHANGSHA, China – Norman Black’s first encounter with China as part of the Philippine team coaching staff ended in a debacle.
Twenty five years after, he hopes the result would be the reverse.
Gilas Pilipinas battles host China for the championship of the Fiba-Asia meet on Saturday night in the first meeting between the two longtime basketball powers in a game of this magnitude since the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing.
Black was a deputy of then head coach Robert Jaworski with the first all-pro team the country sent in the international stage in the advent of open basketball, a stint that ended in a 90-74 Chinese clobbering of the Filipinos in the gold medal game.
In the elims, the Philippines team lost to China by an even bigger margin, 60-125.
“The last time we met them was also in China and the result wasn’t very good. We didn’t fare well against the Chinese,” Black recalled with a serious tone.
Now, as one of the assistants of Gilas coach Tab Baldwin, Black is keeping his fingers crossed the Filipinos would be able to hold their own against Yi Jianlian and the formidable Chinese team.
“Hopefully, we could do a much better job this time,” he said.
Unlike that original PBA reinforced national team that was only assembled and trained on two weeks’ notice, Gilas Pilipinas – or at least the team’s core - had been together for a few years now and competed as a unit in a lot of international competitions including the Fiba-Asia and the World Cup.
And at this age and time, that’s one important factor for a team to be successful, according to Black.
“That’s what it takes. You have to have that experience, not just playing competitions around the world but playing under that atmosphere and the experience of being able to adjust to the competitions,” said the multi-titled coach of Meralco.
Black also likes the fact how Gilas went on and ‘display a lot of character’ given the circumstances under which it was formed.
“I honestly feel that they really came together as a unit. It’s one of those things where the sum of all parts is stronger than the individual parts. You put us together and we’re a strong team, and maybe separates us, and the individual parts may not be that strong,” he said.
“This team is really a unit that fights together and cares together.”
The Gilas deputy acknowledges that against China, the Philippines has a ‘huge mountain to climb,’ but remains optimistic the same thing won’t happen again unlike 25 years ago.
“Hey, the ball is round,” said Black.