Phil Jackson in Manila

By Henry L. Liao

It would seem light years away but ‘Zen Master’ Phil Jackson, the winningest coach in National Basketball Association (NBA) history with 11 titles, once set foot on Philippine soil.

Exactly four decades ago on May 7 (1984), a young, elongated Jackson who as a player earned a championship ring with the New York Knicks in 1973 before carving his niche as a Hall of Famer coach with six titles with the Chicago Bulls (1991-93 and 1996-98) and five with the LA Lakers (2000-02, 2009 and 2010), visited Manila as part of a nine-man squad of former NBA players that saw action against the crack Northern Consolidated amateur team (which also happened to be the Philippine national squad) in a one-exhibition at the Araneta Coliseum.

The Phil Jackson-Tex Winter partnership with the Chicago Bulls and LA Lakers produced numerous NBA championships with the triangle offense as the clubs' cornerstone strategy.
The Phil Jackson-Tex Winter partnership with the Chicago Bulls and LA Lakers produced numerous NBA championships with the triangle offense as the clubs’ cornerstone strategy.

At the time, the bearded 6-8 Jackson was already four years into retirement as an NBA player. He also was coming off a successful championship stint as the head coach of the Albany Patroons in the old Continental Basketball Association, having steered the Patroons to the league crown against the Wyoming Wildcatters in just his second season of professional coaching.

Aside from Jackson, other members of the all-NBA selection, which registered a perfect 6-0 record during its barnstorming Asian tour, were Hall of Famers Rick Barry, Earl (The Pearl) Monroe, Pete (Pistol Pete) Maravich and Connie (The Hawk) Hawkins and journeymen Cazzie Russell, Mel Davis and Dennis Awtrey, and NBA draft choice Fred Brown, a late addition to the Manila leg who never made the official NBA grade.

Hall of Famers Calvin Murphy (who was part of the all-NBA Salem squad that played against the Philippine Nats in Manila in 1974), Nate Thurmond, and Bob Dandridge were listed in the original lineup but begged off from the Manila trip.

The Philippine sojourn was the last leg of the ex-American pros’ four-nation, five-city tour around Asia. Called the “Challenge Tour of Asia,” the NBAers opened their trip with a game in Beijing, China. They then moved to Canton, Hong Kong, and Chinese Taipei before proceeding to Manila.

The American contingent’s supposed final stop, South Korea, was canceled.

For the record, the NBA old-timers prevailed over the NC team, 84-77.

The young Brown racked up 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead the NBAers.

Barry collected 16 markers and 10 boards. Russell got 14 and seven and Davis netted a dozen points.

Jackson shot 2 for 5 from the field and went 2 for 3 from the free-throw line for six points. He also plucked down one rebound and committed a pair of turnovers while fouling out (five fouls) in just 11 minutes of service.

Maravich, who became a vegetarian after hanging up his jersey, sat out the game with a bum stomach. He died on January 5, 1988, at age 50 due to heart problems. Last March 3, Catlin Clark of the University of Iowa, surpassed Maravich as the all-time scoring leader in U.S. NCAA Division I men’s and women’s basketball history. (Clark was eventually picked No. 1 overall by the Indiana Fever in the WNBA draft.)

Three Americans, who were seeking Filipino citizenship, bannered the Northern Consolidated stars. They were Jeff Moore, Arthurd (Chip) Engelland, and Dennis Still.

Moore amassed a game-high 26 points for NC, which played without regular head coach Ron Jacobs, who abruptly left for the U.S. following the death of his father. Filomeno (Pilo) Pumaren, Jacobs’ assistant, pinch-hitted.

Engelland, an outstanding long-range shooter for the University of Duke as a collegian, drilled in 19 markers. Engelland neither played for the PH team (only Moore and Still were able to wear the national colors during the 1985 Asian Basketball Confederation tournament – the forerunner of the FIBA Asia Cup – due to the FIBA policy of no more two naturalized players, which has since been reduced to one) nor saw action in the NBA. But he has made a living as an NBA assistant coach since 1999, making stops in Detroit (1999-2000), Denver (2003-05), San Antonio (2005-22) and Oklahoma City (2022-present).

Still tallied only four points but corralled 14 rebounds.

Hector Calma, Ludovico Valenciano, and Elmer Reyes were the top Filipino scorers with six points each.

Henry Liao

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