For most of the younger generation, Norman Black is the architect of the Ateneo Blue Eagles’ run of five straight UAAP titles.
But the American coach’s legacy in Philippine basketball extends way further than that.
Black began his PBA coaching career in 1985, and won his first PBA title more than 25 years ago in the 1987 Reinforced Conference.
In 1989, under Black’s leadership, San Miguel became the first PBA team other than the fabled Crispa Redmanizers to win a PBA Grand Slam. During that stretch from 1987 to 1989, Black and the Beermen won six titles in seven conferences.
In total, Black piloted the Beermen to a whopping nine championships of the franchise’s 17 titles.
His last PBA crown came in 2001, becoming the first coach to lead the Sta. Lucia Realtors to a championship.
With his 10 titles, Black is already third in the PBA’s all-time list among coaches, next only to Baby Dalupan (15) and Tim Cone (14) — this despite spending most of the past decade coaching in college.
In leading the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters to the verge of another Philippine Cup title, Black has a chance to build even further on his sterling legacy.
A victory in the title series would give him a title with three different franchises, which would put him in distinguished company along with Tommy Manotoc (U/Tex, San Miguel, Crispa), Baby Dalupan (Crispa, Great Taste, Purefoods), Chot Reyes (Purefoods, Coca-Cola, Talk ‘N Text), and his finals counterpart in the 2013 Philippine Cup (Swift, Red Bull, Rain or Shine).
A championship would also make Talk ‘N Text the only team in PBA history to win the all-Filipino championship in three straight years. The feat would give the Tropang Texters the privilege of taking home the Jun Bernardino trophy for good.
(Crispa actually won four straight all-Filipino tournaments — 1979, 1980, 1983, and 1984 — but they did not come in straight years, as the league did not hold non-import competitions in 1981 and 1982.)
Perhaps more importantly, a win for Black would remind people of his place in league history as one of the greatest coaches the PBA has ever seen.
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.
» Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio thrilled with acquisition of Jared Dillinger, Don Allado
» POLL | Who won the three-way trade among Barako Bull, Meralco, and Talk ‘N Text?
» PBA approves trade: Dillinger, Allado to Meralco, Buenafe to Barako Bull, Anthony to Talk ‘N Text