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    Can Pacquiao join Big J, Mon Fernandez, McDonald, Black in elite list of PBA playing coaches?

    May 15, 2014
    Robert Jaworski defined the role of playing coach in the PBA, but he wasn't the first to do the job (Glenn McDonald owns that distinction) and he also wasn't the last (Norman Black). On the other hand, Jaworski's rival Mon Fernandez had a shortlived stint

    MANNY Pacquiao is without doubt a great boxer and a place in boxing's Hall of Fame will be waiting for him the moment he decides to hang up his gloves.

    But the 'Pacman' is also bound to join a great company of popular figures - not in boxing but in basketball - if a plan to play for and coach expansion team Kia Motors in the PBA pushes through next season.

    In the pro league's 39 years, only a handful of hardcourt heroes were deemed good enough to be a playing coach. Coaching and playing in the pro league, after all, can be a daunting task - much more when done at the same time.

    Robert Jaworski, of course, is the best known playing coach in the league, more or less defining the role while leading Barangay Ginebra to new heights in terms of popularity after the disbandment of Crispa and Toyota.

    But the Big J is certainly not the first playing coach in PBA history - he wasn't even the last one.

    Former U-Tex import Glenn McDonald owns the honor as the first one, essaying the playing coach role with the Wranglers in the 1981 and 1982 seasons after coach Tommy Manotoc left for Crispa.

    The former Boston Celtic also played the role with Manhattan in 1983, suiting up in two league games.

    Jaworski, however, has the longest tenure as playing coach, taking on the role beginning in 1985 when he assumed the reins of Ginebra from former Micaa rival Turo Valenzona and playing his last game at the age of 50 in 1997.

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    Ironically, his former teammate turned rival Mon Fernandez had a short and controversial stint as playing coach in the 1988 Open Conference with Purefoods - the experiment ending when El Presidente decided to hand over the coaching reins to his assistant Cris Calilan the following conference.

    But the distinction of being the last player to essay the role in the league belongs to Norman Black.

    The great import made the transition to coaching when he was offered the playing coach role by San Miguel Beer in the mid-eighties. He went on to win nine championships as coach of the Beermen, including a grand slam in 1989.

    But did you know that at age 40, the multi-titled American coach had a one-game stint as playing coach for Pop Cola in 1990 - more by force of circumstances than by design.

    It happened in the battle for third place in the 1998 Commissioner's Cup when Black stepped in for import Marcus Timmons - a former import for PBL ballclub Tanduay and the fifth reinforcement to suit up for Pop Cola in the tournament.

    When Timmons left after playing his first and last game for Pop Cola, Black 'unretired' and stepped in. He finished with 10 points, 16 rebounds, five blocks, and one asssist in his final PBA game in leading his team to an 84-80 win over Shell.

    And oh, Black, 40, played the entire game as well.

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    Robert Jaworski defined the role of playing coach in the PBA, but he wasn't the first to do the job (Glenn McDonald owns that distinction) and he also wasn't the last (Norman Black). On the other hand, Jaworski's rival Mon Fernandez had a shortlived stint
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