THE ‘Boss’ remains a major piece of the San Miguel Beer franchise.
No less than San Miguel president Ramon S. Ang disclosed that former chieftain Danding Cojuangco is still a big part of the company’s decision-making process when it concerns to its three teams in the PBA.
Ang was quick to point out that Cojuangco still has the final approval on all movements involving the three ballcubs under the umbrella of the SMC group – namely Barangay Ginebra, Purefoods, and newly-crowned Philippine Cup champion San Miguel.
The man they fondly call RSA deflected the credit for the Beermen’s revival, saying it was Cojuangco who has the final say in the decisions.
“This championship of San Miguel will not be possible if not for the efforts and brilliance of our chairman Mr. Cojuangco. Without his support, the team will never be like this,” said Ang in a rare interview granted to Spin.ph following the Beermen’s thrilling 80-78 win over the Alaska Aces win their winner-take-all showdown on Wednesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Cojuangco once served as the country’s basketball godfather during the 80’s when he spearheaded and bankrolled the celebrated Northern Consolidated Corp. national team under legendary coach Ron Jacobs, which went on and won for the country the 1985 Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship.
With the core of the NCC team later on making up the foundation of the returning San Miguel team that took a leave of absence in the PBA, the Beermen went on and reaped great success, culminating with a rare grand slam in 1989.
But since Ang took a more active role in both the business and sports affairs of San Miguel, the general belief was that Cojuangco has distanced himself from the affairs of the company's PBA teams and focused on the varsity team of alma mater De La Salle.
The amiable company president, however, was quick to shoot down such speculations, stressing Cojuangco is ‘still very much in the game.’
“Siya (pa rin) nag-iisip ng mga combinations ng movements ng players (at ng coaching staff), lahat. Even yung acquisition ni Leo Austria at ng coaching staff, we consulted the chairman,” said Ang, who is in constant consultation with basketball officers Robert Non (San Miguel), Alfrancis Chua (Ginebra), and Rene Pardo (Purefoods).
And lest it be forgotten, Ang pointed out Cojuangco remains deeply involved in local basketball as the top backer of De La Salle in the UAAP. He said it was through the efforts of the former ambassador that future players Kobe Paras and 6-7 Pampagueno prodigy Jay Pangalangan have already committed to suit up for the Green Archers.
The dominance of San Miguel teams in the PBA - the last five conferences of the league having topped by San Miguel-controlled team – according to Ang, was all the makings of Cojuangco.
“Siya pa rin talaga ang utak ng team hanggang ngayon. Makikita mo very involved pa rin siya (sa basketball affairs ng San Miguel),” said Ang.
Meanwhile, Ang also lauded the efforts of Alaska in giving San Miguel a tough fight during the best-of-seven finals.
“I think this is the most difficult championship game that I have seen. Thank God we finally made it,” he told Spin.ph during the private dinner hosted by San Miguel for its players and their family at the Heat Restaurant of Shangri-la Edsa hotel.
“Alaska really brought out the best in the team, and again, I want to thank our chairman Mr. Cojuangco for all the support he has given (the team),” Ang said.
At the same time, the San Miguel CEO was quick to play down expectations that the Beermen are bound to dominate the league for a long time after ending their three-year title drought.
“Hindi naman siguro. I think yung mga teams ngayon balansado. If you look at Rain or Shine, sobrang lakas nun. Yung Alaska, napakalakas, it’s just the breaks of the game,” he said.
Alaska coach Alex Compton however, begged to disagree.
“I think San Miguel has what it takes to be a title contender every conference,” said Compton. “Obviously, the import plays a huge role in the next two conferences and it’s so hard to say exactly where anyone will finish.
“But with their (Beermen) ability, their leadership from coach Leo, and the finals experience they have now, it would be hard to count them out in any conference,” added the Alaska coach.
Asked if San Miguel has the capability to duplicate the feat of sister team San Mig (now Purefoods), which completed the grand slam last season, both Compton and Ang would rather not to get ahead of themselves.
“I don’t think it’s fair to start talking about them trying to repeat what San Mig did,” said Compton. “That was one of the most rare runs in PBA history. I think we should all let San Miguel enjoy this championship. They deserve it.”
Ang said: “Grand slam ang pinakamahirap planuhin. I think ang pwede lang nating gawin is each game, kung manalo ka ng isa, focus ka sa susunod. Pero grand slam? Ang hirap manalo nun.”
View video of Spin.ph interview with SMC boss Ramon Ang: