FEU best in recruiting players, says Norman BlackBy Mark Giongco
MANILA, Philippines—If there’s one thing to fear most about Ateneo, it’s the team’s system.
And the man behind it: Norman Black.
“Preparation is everything,” Black said during an interview on dzIQ Radyo Inquirer 990AM.
Black, who made a name for himself as a PBA import back in the ’80s, has been the guiding force behind the Blue Eagles’ four straight UAAP titles.
And for him, success in college basketball starts with good recruitment.
“When I came into Ateneo, the recruiting system hindi maganda,” admitted Black, who insisted that University of Santo Tomas is the team to beat. “It’s just open try-outs. I felt like, I’ll need to start traveling to the provinces to check on local talents, to see if I can recruit them to Ateneo.”
The only problem for Black back then and even up to now is Far Eastern University.
“Everywhere I went, every city, FEU was already there, they already had a contact. So I would have a try-out, FEU has been there already. Their system of recruiting has always been good over the years. Every year, they will always bring in new players,” Black said. “Nobody realizes this about FEU, but they probably have the best recruiting system of all the UAAP teams.”
The 54-year-old Black also admitted that he tried to get Mark Belo but FEU beat him to the forward.
Apart from the skills, Black also noted the importance of the player’s personality and explained how they recruit a player.
“Sa Ateneo, importante ang talent at skills pero important din ang studies,” Black said, showing off his knowledge of the Filipino language after decades of living here. “You got the province, the parents, the teacher and you talk to the player to get the feel or the personality of the players.”
“Pero siyempre iba naman ang character ng mga players, may ibang players low-maintenance, minsan may sira ang ulo,” Black said with a laugh.
He went on citing two of his former players in Chris Tiu and Rabeh Al-Hussaini with the former being the low-maintenance kind and the latter as the opposite.
“Ang sabi ko kay Chris, do this, he’ll do it…Rabeh Al-Hussaini, he came in Ateneo quite raw, but he had a lot of talent but minsan, mainit ulo, minsan sobrang competitive sa practice, so he’s a hig- maintenance pero work ethics, he’s a hard worker talaga. He’s probably the hardest worker I coached in Ateneo.”
Dealing with the players’ egos is one of Black’s challenges and for him it’s the coach’s job to manage the different players in the team.
Black, who is also a gilded coach in the PBA, also relished the rare opportunity of being under good coaches.
“From being a player, and I played under good coaches, I played under Tommy Manotoc and Baby Dalupan, some of the best, and you just continue to learn.”
“One thing that I asked from Ateneo is that I will be able go back to the States and attend basketball clinics and continue to try to get better and to learn. And you always try to tweak your system as you can. You want to make it exciting for your players,” he continued.
A no-nonsense coach, the one who rarely shows a beaming expression during games and practices, Black somehow revealed his soft side.
“They see me as a big brother. Sometimes they joke around too much, jokes coach Norman. I try to be open with them. But importante ang two things, be honest with your players and be open.”
Though Black wouldn’t say it, he expects a fitting end to his coaching stint with this Season 75 being his last along Ateneo’s sidelines.