February 16, 1997
PBA 23rd season opens with grand slam coaches
A s the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) opens shop for the 23rd season today, it will be marking the momentous occasion with the usual pomp and pageantry featuring stars both on and off the hardcourt.
Then there is the traditional lone game to kick off the yearlong hostilities that would, in the end, become another chapter in league history.
But real history would actually be recorded even before the first game pitting Mobiline and Alaska Milk ends tonight. Call it the gathering of three of the most brilliant minds in the PBA.
On the side of Alaska is Tim Cone, winningest coach the past two years including the 1996 grand slam while on the opposite bench are Norman Black and Tommy Manotoc, architects of the two previous hattricks pulled off in 1983 (for Crispa) and 1989 (for San Miguel), respectively.
So expect one hell of a game at the Cuneta Astrodome when the opening buzzer sound off at 5:30 p.m.
"Yes, I'll be there," said Manotoc when asked if he would sit in the Mobiline bench as the team consultant. "I'd like to see how we are gonna' start this year."
Manotoc joined the Cellulars only this year when the ballclub started a massive buildup in a bid to crawl out of the dark cellar which has been serving as its place the past seasons. And the first major move he did was to hire Black.
"We did a lot of things to improve the team and we're hoping to get good results this early. This is going to be a brand-new team," said Black.
Familiar and new faces composed the 1997 Mobiline squad which has already acquired additional followers with the acquisition of the hardworking Jeffrey Cariaso from Alaska and 6-foot-8 Fil-American Andrew John Seigle from the annual draft.
Cariaso, however, would not be around in the first Mobiline outing against his former team following an injury suffered in a recent tuneup game. Still, his absence does not diminish the interest on Seigle.
Described as a better version of ace slotman Marlou Aquino of Gordon's Gin, Seigle takes his first plunge into big time against the proud and mighty Milkmen.
"Mobiline is unpredictable. They're a new team," said Cone who added that the entry of Black and the presence of Manotoc helped in giving the team the look of a winner.
The opening ceremony is set at 4:00 p.m. -EDGARD HILARIO
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Source: Manila Bulletin Online