A recent on-court incident involving a D-League coach transported me back to the days of a bygone era when people got overly passionate about the game of basketball and would resort to violence.
What came to mind in particular was the time when Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, then still mayor of San Juan, was coaching a team from his district which was invited to compete in a tournament in Agana, Guam.
If I remember it right, the opponent was leading Jinggoy’s team by a huge margin when the incident happened.
Feeling that his team was getting the raw end in officiating, Jinggoy waited for the right opportunity to vent his ire. He got it when the official walked in front of him. Jinggoy punched the referee in full view of hundreds of his compatriots.
I don’t know what happened next except that Jinggoy escaped sanctions. After all, the incident occurred in a foreign land.
Of course, Jinggoy’s team was never again invited to play in Guam.
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I’m not sure if I should consider this as a positive sign that the Filipinos’ rabid passion for basketball, which has abated somewhat in the last decade or so, is back.
The D-League incident that I am talking about happened very recently, when Alvin Pua, coach of the Cagayan Rising Suns, one of the new teams in the PBA’s developmental league, did a “Jinggoy” during a practice game with the National University Bulldogs.
Pua’s Suns were trailing the Bulldogs by a huge margin when he stormed into the court, pushed the referee and socked him in front of the crowd watching at the NU Gym .
After that, “nagkagulo na,” reported an eyewitness.
It is unlikely that the referee was deliberately whistling calls against Cagayan. We’re talking of a PBA referee here.
So what probably got the ire of coach Pua was the fact that his D-League team was being badly beaten by a collegiate squad.
He then vent his ire on the poor referee.
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The incident at the NU gym draws several parallels to what happened in Guam: The opponent on both occasions was leading by a wide margin and the coaches in both cases are politically powerful, or at the very least, well connected.
However, unlike Sen. Estrada, Pua didn’t get away scot-free.
He was summoned by PBA Commissioner Chito Salud to his office and subsequently fined a hefty P50,000. He was also slapped a three-game suspension.
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“Is that the biggest amount sanctioned by the D-League to anyone?” I asked PBA media bureau chief Willie Marcial on a Black Saturday.
Willie said it was, “but coach Pua should consider himself lucky he lost his temper during a practice match and not an actual game.”
“Otherwise he would have gotten a much stiffer penalty. He could have been banned.”
“Banned, as in for life?” I asked Willie. “The way Meralco teammates Sonny Jaworski and Big Boy Reynoso were banned by the BAP’s Lito Puyat 40 years ago during a championship game against Crispa for mauling referees Eriberto Cruz and Joe Obias?
That, Willie said, is not far-fetched.
On appeal the ban on Jaworski and Reynoso was lifted two years later.
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In fairness, the Cagayan coach, whose team sports a 0-3 record as of this writing, was very remorseful and apologetic when he realized what he had done.
“He wanted to apologize personally but the injured referee chose to accept his apology in absentia,” Willie said.
While serving his three-game suspension, consultant Francis Rodriguez will take over the reins of the Cagayan team.