COACH Norman Black is spending his 63rd birthday not with his wife and family, but with the PBA team he's mentoring from the sidelines.
The 11-time PBA coaching champion has helmed a lot of them throughout the years. And on the day of his birthday, the Bolts are arguably doing their mentor proud.
Earlier this week, the Bolts secured a spot in the PBA quarterfinals at fifth seed (7-4). While that may already a fitting gift for the veteran mentor, his players, who've shown great tenacity inside the PBA Bubble, took the time to give shoutouts to their respected coach.
A running thread in their messages for Coach Norman? Black's tough love culture.
"Coach Norman is a get-the-job-done kind of coach. It's tough love at times, but he genuinely wants what's best for us," Chris Newsome said.
Meanwhile, Allein Maliksi gave credit to the tireless energy the seasoned coach brings out in the team.
Maliksi said: "Coach Norman's known as Mr. 100%, dapat 100% ka rin sa practice. He really values discipline and respect."
It's a feeling that's familiar to Norman's son Aaron.
"My dad never pressured me to play ball, but he told me that if I wanted to, I'd have to be the best I could be," the younger Black added.
While its difficult to live up to the tactician's way, Bolts continue to work twice as hard and they're not complaining at all.
Baser Amer said, "Sobrang blessed ko kay Coach Norman kasi tinuturing kaming lahat na parang anak. Malaking bagay sa akin na na-earn ko yung tiwala niya."
Even Bolts assistant coach (and fellow PBA legend) Ronnie Magsanoc is a witness to Black's utmost commitment on team improvement in every aspect.
"We take our lead from our general. Coach Norman reminds everyone we need to work hard to succeed, and you can see that in how everyone's willing to go the extra mile, " he said of Black.
Now, entering the playoffs this Friday against defending champions San Miguel Beer, coach Norman keeps his head high and zeroes in on the only thing that matters most for the team — that they commit to playing with a united effort.
“I love the game. Even after all these years in the PBA, I still have that drive and desire for competition. I'm still trying to get better every year,” he said. “I see us as a team, not as individuals. If you're part of the team, you should know who you are as a player and play within your skill set.”