This appears in the Wednesday, September 14, 2016 edition of the Business Mirror.
by rick olivares
Norman Black just won his 600th PBA game as head coach after his Meralco Bolts trumped tough Mahindra 86-83 last Sunday, September 11.
“I wasn’t aware of it until today,” quipped Black during a text exchange that evening. “I’m up there in good company."
Throughout his career and life in the Philippines, Norman Black is a man who when you introduce or describe to someone else will have something numeric in the sentence that follows.
To an older generation of sports fans, he is “Mr. 100%” for the tireless effort that he set as an example to all aside from his longevity. In his very first PBA stint with Tefilin, Black averaged an astonishing 51.6 points per game. he also once scored 76 points in one game (for Magnolia) that is the 15th best in league history.
Perhaps his one record that perhaps will not be broken by any import is his all-time scoring record as he tabulated a total of 11,329 points in 10 seasons in the PBA! During that decade of dominance and consistency, Black averaged 40.2 points a game, fifth best for all foreign players. And speaking of averages, he hauled down 18.9 boards a game in 10 years. And yes, he tops that list for imports!
Further to that, he is also a multi-titled coach who has guided 3 teams to 11 championships in the pros. Those championships are spread across 3 decades of coaching!
However, to multiple generations of people who went to Ateneo de Manila University and your average sports fan, he will always be associated to the term “5-peat” for leading the Blue Eagles to that Herculean feat only accomplished by two other college teams in Philippine sports history. It is incredible given today’s sports climate with massive recruiting, quick turnover of players, and the money shelled out in collegiate sports. In his time in Loyola Heights, home to Ateneo, he coached the seniors men’s squad for 9 years making it the longest tenure by any of the school’s basketball coaches.
And now, he can add 600 won matches as head coach in the world’s second professional basketball league. And counting as he hopes to lead the Meralco Bolts to its first PBA title.
Knowing the man, he isn’t one to call attention to plaudits and would oft be shy when people mention this. For a man who in his coaching career is obsessed with numbers (only because his teams needed to gain statistical superiority in its common pursuit of a championship) he feels the opposite way when it comes to anything resembling praise that is attached to his name.
After he won his 11th PBA title and first with Talk ’N Text after his stint in Ateneo, he once more deflected praise to this writer by saying — with a smile I should add — “What it means is I have been in this game far too long.”
I figure by the time he’s done with the game, there’ll be a few more numbers that will be attached when he is introduced to someone who has perhaps lived in a cave all these years.