By NICK GIONGCO
Manila, Philippines – Manny Pacquiao has realized one of his cherished dreams after the boxing icon yesterday forged a three-year deal with the Philippine Columbia Autocar Corp. to become the playing coach of Kia Motors, one of three expansion teams in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
Pacquiao, the reigning World Boxing Organization welterweight champion and congressman from Sarangani, told the Bulletin last night that he will definitely suit up when PBA opens shop on Oct. 21.
“I have been given the authority to form the team and pick the players because they don’t have any experience in handling a (basketball) team.”
The PBA Draft will be in July.
Sounding bubbly and thrilled, Pacquiao said his entry into the league should prop up the popularity of the league.
“I am sure the PBA will become even more popular,” said Pacquiao, who had said several weeks ago during the runup to his rematch with Tim Bradley in Las Vegas that he will take the No. 17, an obvious reference to his birthday of Dec 17.
Even though he will serve as the playing coach, Pacquiao said he might not even see action as his priority is to win games for the new squad.
Asked what if he has a scheduled fight that will conflict with his training, Pacquiao said he will recruit a number of assistant coaches to fill the void that he will leave while overseas preparing for a big fight.
Top Rank chief Bob Arum said Pacquiao’s next fight will be held sometime in November possibly against the winner of the May 17 match between Juan Manuel Marquez and Mike Alvarado.
Pacquiao was ecstatic about his deal with Kia Motors since he is a hardcore basketball player who owns and manages a local team that he has brought to the US to play some goodwill games.
Told about his impending faceoff with revered bench tacticians like Tim Cone and Norman Black, Pacquiao believes he can stand his ground.
“I’ve done coaching before. I know how to coach,” said the 35-year-old boxing star.
Reminded that some players tend to be lazy at times, Pacquiao said he will not tolerate them.