This series, which takes a look back at Robert Jaworski’s four titles as playing-coach of Ginebra, is part of 7 Days of Jaworski, InterAKTV’s special tribute to the Living Legend, whose jersey will be retired on Sunday, July 8.
In 1986, fans at the ULTRA could hardly feel the cold December weather. The PBA Open Conference featured a heated matchup between Ginebra San Miguel and Manila Beer, the two teams that ruled most of the tournament.
The finals duels came as no surprise, because the two teams featured the best import duos in the PBA. Ginebra had two former Best Import awardees in Michael Hackett and Billy Ray Bates, while Manila Beer had former University of Houston star Michael Young and the cunning Harold Keeling.
Both teams were hungry, because neither franchise had won a PBA title yet.
Ginebra was led by playing-coach Robert Jaworski, but his bosom buddy, Francis Arnaiz, left the team for the United States midway through the conference. Veterans Chito Loyzaga, Terry Saldana, Romy Mamaril, Joey Marquez, Ed Ducut, and Rey Perez were joined by newcomers Joey Loyzaga, Rudy Distrito, and Dante Gonzalgo. Rookies Dondon Ampalayo, Leo Isaac, and Mike Advani made up the rest of the team.
Curiously, Manila Beer’s nucleus was made up of several Crispa Redmanizers, including Atoy Co, Abet Guidaben, Yoyoy Villamin, Mon Cruz, and Tito Varela. Jaworski’s Toyota teammates, Ed Cordero and Tim Coloso, were also with Manila Beer.
Game One of the series lived up to the hype, going down to the very final second. With under seven seconds left and the game tied at 133-all, Young, the Best Import of the tournament, missed a challenged shot from the flank. Bates collared the rebound, dribbled coast-to-coast, and sailed for a powerful jam just before buzzer went off. There was massive bedlam at ULTRA as Bates was mobbed by his teammates.
Manila Beer equalized in Game Two through the heroic efforts of its twin imports, 121-111, while Ginebra exacted revenge in Game Three with a 139-130 victory.
Leading 2-1, Ginebra smelled blood. But Manila Beer wouldn’t go down easily. The epic Game Four went into double-overtime, with Jaworski — then already 40 years old — playing all 58 minutes of the game! Ginebra pulled out the win, 145-135.
The loss took the starch out of Brewmasters, which lost to an inspired Gins team in Game Five, 130-120. Michael Hackett, who played a supporting role to Bates for most of the conference, erupted for 45 points, while Bates added 31.
It was Ginebra’s first title in franchise history, and Jaworski’s first championship as a playing coach.
Jay P. Mercado is a highly-regarded PBA amateur historian. He serves as a consultant for the PBA Greatest Games broadcast on Pinoy X-treme.