THREE months after, Norman Black is back in the Finals.
After steering the Ateneo Blue Eagles to a historic fifth straight UAAP men’s basketball championship last October, Black finds himself on track again for another title run as Talk `N Text guns for a third straight PBA Philippine Cup crown against Rain or Shine.
Black’s fifth title with the Blue Eagles was his last with the Katipunan-based school before he finally came on board as Tropang Texters coach, replacing national mentor Chot Reyes.
He hasn't missed a beat.
Already an accomplished coach in Asia’s first ever play-for-pay league, Black said being back in the Finals of the PBA for the first time in more than a decade opened up a new challenge for him.
Unlike in the UAAP where Black has been used to playing in a best-of-three title series, the multi-titled American coach said he now has to accustom himself to playing again in a best-of-seven Finals.
“Seven-game series makes it a new challenge for me,” said Black when asked what adjustment he has to make going into the PBA Finals fresh from winning a UAAP championship.
Black, owner of 10 league titles including a rare Grand Slam in 1989, is trying to become only the second coach after Joel Banal in 2002-03 to clinch a PBA championship after winning the UAAP title.
And the new challenge for the former Best Import awardee begins Wednesday when Game One of the title series with the Elasto Painters is played at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
“The biggest difference going from the UAAP to the PBA is probably the seven-game series. In the UAAP, it’s just a best-of-three. You throw that first punch and you get that first victory. You pretty much knocked out the team and you only need one win,” Black said.
“Here (in the PBA), you throw the first punch, there’s no guarantee. When you win the first game, just like in the Alaska (Talk N Text) semis series, there will be adjustments made over the course of the series. You have to re-adjust, read the adjustments, etcetera etcetra,” he added.
But if there is one major similarity between Talk `N Text and Ateneo, Black said it has got to be the talented players on both sides whose desire to win is unquestionable.
“In both cases, I have very good players. I consider myself a good coach but I’m not going to win basketball games without talented players who are willing to work hard and are dedicated to winning. That’s number one,” Black said.