I always thought the idea of having boxing great Manny Pacquiao coach and play for a Philippine pro-basketball team was a mere publicity stunt until it was formally announced in a press conference Monday.
Many raised their eyebrows wondering what Pacquiao can do as a full-time coach, and a playing one at that. Many are saying he would not even qualify to play for a competitive amateur league without playing for his own team.
And that is what Pacquiao has done. He owns the MP Warriors-Gensan in the Mindanao division of the Mindanao-Visayas Basketball League, a farm league of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (Anybody heard of them?). Pacquiao occasionally plays for his own team when not in training or attending his duties as member of Philippine Congress.
Like most gifted athletes, Pacquiao has other sporting passions. He confessed basketball was a first love before he was hooked up with boxing. Pacquiao, at 5’6 1/2” tall, however makes him about as good a basketball player as he is a singer or movie actor.
So when KIA Motors announced it is hiring Pacquiao as playing coach one had to wonder if the 8-division world boxing champion now owns a share of the distributor of the Korean car manufacturer in the Philippines.
He is setting aside his dreams of playing in the (Philippine Basketball Association) PBA. Only KIA would have the temerity to draft a 35-year-old rookie. And it would be a travesty for Asia’s first pro-basketball league if the PBA will forgo its own draft rule just to accommodate Pacquiao in the league.
A perfunctory look at the KIA Motors team management, however, points to Eric Espina as its team manager. Espina happens to be the business manager of Pacquiao, too.
So there you go connecting the dots.
But is basketball coach Pacquiao good for the PBA?
Given that Pacquiao has practically abdicated his congressional seat by skipping sessions when in training, it is either coaching or boxing that will suffer when conflicts between his PBA coaching duties and fight training schedule arise.
I think KIA Motors needs Pacquiao more than Pacquiao needs another day job as coaching is a 24/7 profession, unlike congress and boxing when there are breaks in between. Being an expansion team, KIA Motors will not be immediately competitive. It will take years before it will become a championship caliber team.
Ever wonder why PBA teams are named after product brands and not cities like the NBA? Because teams have to sell. And the PBA has to sell. PBA teams, however, do not have home courts where they can sell tickets, team merchandises and get pledges from states and giant corporations for the upkeep of their arenas. They only have corporate owners who charge their team expenses to advertisements and entertainment that could be tax deductible.
Translating team exposure into sales is what matters most for KIA. Having Pacquiao as head coach, no matter how nominal it will turn out to be, is a publicity and PR coup.
Pacquiao will surely rake in the fans if only for the curiosity of seeing how he will run a pro ball team. It will keep him and KIA in the conversation. People will take a second look at KIA vehicles that are now competing with car models of established manufacturers such as Toyota, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Ford. The Philippines, after all, is a car seller’s market.
But the novelty will eventually die down, just as many have already quit following Pacquiao during sessions in Congress. In the latter case, absence definitely does not make the heart grow fonder.
This is where the coaching job for KIA Motors comes in handy for Pacman. Pacquiao needs to be omnipresent if he is serious about his Philippine Senate run in 2016. What better way than having his name and face continuously flashed all over the live telecasts of PBA games featuring his team.
Pacquiao will win a Senate seat hands down – with or without the PBA coaching job. Not even PBA legend Robert Jaworski and gun-slinging Lito Lapid of the Filipino cowboy movies enjoyed the phenomenal popularity Pacquiao has achieved. He does not need more packaging. In fact more can do him harm.
There is no problem with Pacquiao doing multi-task jobs, but he cannot be the jack of all trades all the time.
Somehow, somebody has to draw the line between fantasy and reality.