KIA Motors has been forced to rethink its plan to tap boxing hero Manny Pacquiao as its playing coach when the PBA expansion team makes its league bow next season, a source revealed.
The only eight-division world boxing champion had earlier revealed to Spin.ph that he has already agreed in principle with officials of Columbia Autocar Corp., distributor of Kia vehicles in the country, to become the ballclub’s playing coach in the pro league's 40th season.
But the grand plan has encountered several problems since the big reveal, from a league rule that requires even incoming playing coaches to go through the rookie draft to widespread criticism from purists who feel Pacquiao's planned stint is a "mockery" of the league and its players.
Several teams have also thrown a monkey wrench at Kia's plans by expressing a desire to draft Pacquiao if they get a chance, putting in doubt if he will still be available by the time Kia's turn comes in the No. 11 to 13 picks depending on the result of a draft lottery.
A source said one option the expansion team is weighing is to drop the "playing" in Pacquiao's job title, but that would depend on whether a coaching job is still appealing enough for the eight-division world champion who is a known basketball gym rat.
“Eh parang nawawalan na sila ng loob. Kasi mukhang malabo si Manny na makalaro sa team,” said an insider who asked not to be named. “Mukhang hindi maglalaro eh, mada-draft ba? Eh paano kung kunin ng iba? Siguro hindi na talaga pipiliting lumaro (si Manny).”
“Tuloy pa rin siya sa amin, kaso baka coach na lang. Kaso yung player, baka malabo na kasi marami kaming tatawirin (sa draft),” the source added.
The same team insider revealed that Pacquiao and Kia Motors are set to meet again within this week, when the final plans including the former top pound-for-pound boxer’s contract and the composition of the coaching staff, will be laid down.
Asked why Kia is so eager to have Pacquiao in the team despite the lukewarm reception from fans, the source answered: “Advertising yan eh. Marketing yan eh.”
But the source was quick to add that it doesn't mean Kia isn't focused on winning games in its debut season.
“Yes, they want to win. Marketing kasi 'yan (ang participation sa PBA) and at the same time, target din na manalo. Ayaw naman nila maging whipping boys,’ the source said.
Meanwhile, one of the team owners who initially expressed a desire to pick Pacquiao in the draft said he, too, is having second thoughts owing to the mostly adverse reaction from fans.
“Gusto ko sana kunin at i-draft kung aabot sa amin. Kaso negative ang response ng tao, kaya 'wag na lang,” said the team owner, who requested anonymity.“Saka siguro tama 'yung fans, manatili na lang sa boxing si Manny, mas dun niya tayo nabibigyan ng karangalan.”
The idea of Pacquiao playing in the country’s top basketball league has drawn flak, with fans basically believing Pacquiao is “not fit to play in the PBA.”
See video of a poll conducted among PBA fans:
Even Spin.ph columnist Chino Trinidad reiterated his earlier pronouncement that the ‘Pacman’ should focus on boxing and stay away from the PBA. [See Reality check for 'Pacman']
“Hindi ko kasi maintindihan kung publicity stunt ito o ano. Kung ito ay part of a grand plan to use Pacquiao for publicity, they’ve already achieved much, dahil pinag-uusapan,” the former PBL commissioner said.
“But sa emergence ng social media, baka hindi applicable yung kasabihan dati na ‘good or bad publicity is still publicity.' Matalino na ang tao ang we have a discerning audience (sa sports),” Trinidad added.
Trinidad put the blame on the team of advisers of Pacquiao.
“Yung mga people around Manny Pacquiao just made him a butt of jokes among those who understand how basketball is being played,” he added. “Ito ang word of advice ko okay Manny Pacquiao - mag-boxing ka na lang.”
Amid the public debate, Kia Motors has been eerily silent. Columbia officials had initially set a press conference last Thursday, but cancelled it to give way to the PBA's own presscon for the Commissioner's Cup Finals.
They haven't made any statement since, with Columbia Autocar Corp. president Ginia Domingo letting Pacquiao's business adviser Eric Pineda do the talking when Spin.ph caught up with her during Game Two of the Talk 'N Text-San Mig Finals series.