MANILA — Basketball-mad Filipinos welcomed Samahang Basketbol Ng Pilipinas president Manny V. Pangilinan’s invitation for NBA champion Miami Heat Filipino-American coach Erik Spoelstra to come to the Philippines in the hope of inspiring members of the Philippine team as part of their preparation for the coming FIBA-Asia championship here on Aug. 1-11.
Sports leaders, sports heroes and even those working overseas were also one in urging the sportsman-businessman to ask Spoelstra to tag along some of his players in his visit to play Gilas-Pilipinas in tune up games which it needs to make the Nationals competitive enough to finish at least third and qualify to the 2014 world championship in Spain.
“Great,” basketball’s living legend Robert Jaworski, a member of Asian champion Philippine team the last time the country hosted the now FIBA-Asia 40 years ago, exclaimed by way of reacting to Pangilinan’s invitation, reported PNA’s Eddie G. Alinea.
“I’m certain that coach Spo will be able to share many important facets of the game to both our coaches and players if, indeed, he will make it here,” said Jaworski, “Jawo,” or the “Big-J” to his fans and a former “King Warrior” during his collegiate playing days.
“Coach Spo is also known to be a character builder and that could also help the team earn the character it needs, the love of country, which, actually, is the essential reason why they will be carrying the county’s colors in that competition,” Jaworski, who along with the late Narciso Bernardo, where chosen members of the Asian Mythical team in the 1967 edition of the then Asian Basketball Confederation championship, added.
Philippine Sports Commission chair Richie Garcia, Bowling Hall of Famer Bong Coo, former Senator Nikki Coseteng, ex-PSC commissioner Doming Cepeda, former basketball pros Atoy Co and Jerry Codinera, sports columnist Al Mendoza, PSC executive director, lawyer Guillermo Iroy, and others who reacted to the story, shared Jaworski’s sentiment that the idea of inviting coach Spo will strengthen the Nationals’ morale.
“GREAT!” (in bold capital letters) was Coo’s reaction via text message that drew concurrence from the plain and simple Filipinos from as far north as Cagayan, to San Pablo City, birthplace of Heat coach’s mother Elisa Celino, to San Francisco in California.
“Coach Spo had just exemplified the Filipino’s resiliency. His title win coming from a brink of elimination in GamesSix and winning in Game 7 is something,” Coseteng related.
Garcia and Cepeda, for their part, said members of the national coaching staff as well as members of he national squad, can learn a thing or two if ever Spoelstra comes and gives inspirational talk to the team.
Out in San Pablo City, coconut planter Isagani Maghirang had this to say: “Magandang pagkakataon yan para makita natin ng personal si coach Spo, lalo na dito sa bayang sinilangan ng kanyang ina. Sana isama din niya si Elisa at dalhin dito sa San Pablo.”
“Good, I believe coach Spo will accept Mr. MVP’s invitation. He’s been known to be very accommodating man who will be willing to help when his mother’s country needs him,” Don Veridiano, a self-made businessman based in San Francisco said via an overseas call that drew agreement from brother Molino of Sto. Nino town in Cagayan.
Ramon Avena, son of Far Eastern Games basketball great Vicente Avena agreed, saying: “Coach is a very humble and likeable person. His contribution to Miami’s rise to prominence in basketball and in training and teaching would-be basketball players will certainly help our national team.”