Norman Black, Mr. 100%, is 50% Pinoy
10 THINGS - Bianca Gonzalez () - October 9, 2011 - 12:00am

I’ve been watching Norman Black from the time I was a kid and he was a star player for San Miguel, to this day when he coaches the basketball team of my alma mater. It was so surreal to finally shake his hand and sit down with him for a one-on-one interview. I’m so thankful that with the help of his “alter-ego” (as coach Norman calls him) and team manager Paolo Trillo, he actually said, yes! From what I’ve heard, he hardly ever agrees to do lifestyle or entertainment interviews. And sure enough, when I thanked him for saying yes, he said, “When it’s not sports-related, I normally shy away.”

Whether you are a die-hard basketball fan or you don’t care about basketball at all, coach Norman has some very interesting stories worth reading about. Here are 10 things I learned about him:

1. Coach Norman holds the record for being the PBA import with the highest number of points and the highest number of rebounds of all time.

With author Bianca Gonzalez: “When the interview is not sports-related, I normally shy away.”

Scoring a total of 11, 314 points and 5,333 rebounds in the span of 282 games played from 1981 to 1990, Norman Black is the leader in the list of all-time scoring and rebounding imports. That list includes other great PBA imports such as Bobby Parks, Sean Chambers, and Billy Ray Bates. In those 282 games, he averaged 40.1 points, 18.9 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game.

2. His love for the game of basketball started with a rejection.

“I actually started playing basketball because I didn’t make the team in high school,” coach Norman reveals. He was a ninth grader in Cardinal Gibbons School in Baltimore then, and though he never really played basketball before that, he wanted to try it out since he already had the height, build, and the ability to jump really high. “Because I got cut from the team I became very determined to prove the coach wrong, and to try to prove that I could be one of the better players,” he explains. The very next year, he made the team and according to him he “became pretty good very quickly.”

3. Coach Norman in numbers:

196 — his height in centimeters (or 6’5”)

14 — his shoe size

76 — most number of points he scored in one game (this was on Oct. 13, 1985 when he played for Magnolia)

With wife Benjie during the 2010 3-peat victory party in Fiamma: “Maganda ang asawa ko.”  

24 — his jersey number when he played for the Detroit Pistons in the 1980-81 NBA season

14 — number of championships he won as a coach. He won 10 in the PBA, nine of which were for San Miguel and one for Sta.Lucia. He won four straight championships for Ateneo in the UAAP

2.5 — number of years between the day he met and the day he married his wife Benjie

4. He once broke his finger in the middle of a game, taped it up, finished the game, and ended up scoring 46 points. This is what earned him the award, and the moniker, “Mr. 100%.”

This happened in 1983 when he was playing for Great Taste. “Everybody knew it was broken, that’s one of the reasons why they gave me the award,” he shares. Today, the championship shirts Ateneo have the words “Mr. 100%” printed on them, as a way of honoring what Coach Norman has done for the team.

5. On more than one occasion, some alumni members wanted him kicked out as head coach of Ateneo.

Coach Norman was first a consultant for the Ateneo Blue Eagles in 2004, then became head coach in 2005. Success didn’t come easily. It was in 2008, the 71st season of the UAAP, that he won his first championship as a coach in college basketball. “I know after my second year, a lot of alumni wanted to get rid of me,” coach Norman reveals. After his third year, still with no win, he said that a majority of the alumni wanted to get rid of him. He explains, “What they didn’t realize is that it takes time to build things, you make an investment, and you don’t get that investment back immediately.”

“I have to thank Fr. Ben (Nebres) and MVP (sports czar Manny V. Pangilinan), they were the two who did not listen to the people who wanted me kicked out,” Coach Norman adds.

Coach Norman Black with sports czar Manny V. Pangilinan celebrating in Hong Kong after the 3-peat victory. With them, from left, are Bacon Austria, Ryan Buenafe, Eric Salamat, assistant coach Jon Jacinto and Debbie Tan.

When asked which of the four UAAP championship titles was the most fulfilling, Coach Norman said it would be the first. “Mainly because I coached Ateneo for three years before we actually won on my fourth year as head coach.”

I asked him, in all honesty and humility, if he felt in his heart that they would win this season. He said, “Out of all the teams I coached in Ateneo, I thought this team had the best chance of winning.”

When asked if he will still be the head coach of Ateneo next season, he answered, “There are a lot of rumors going around about that. I don’t know what the management has planned and how they’re going to handle the situation, so I’m not going to say anything for the meantime.” However, he did give a statement regarding a possible “5-peat” prediction for Ateneo: “If a championship is on the horizon, I’m certainly going to strive for that.”

6. “Norman, please don’t pull my chain” is the best advice he got from his basketball coach.

These were the words of Jimmy Lynam, his coach when he played for St. Joseph’s College in Pennsylvania. “At the time he said that to me, I didn’t really realize what he was talking about, but in essence what he was trying to say is, ‘Don’t try to fool me.’” In coach Norman’s own words, simply put, “You can’t cheat.” This piece of advice was what really disciplined him, and made him realize that if you work hard in basketball, it will pay off. If you don’t work hard, well, then don’t expect to get any better. “If you want to become a star, you have to work hard at it,” he concludes.

7. Of all the players he has coached in the PBA and the UAAP, he admires Hector Calma, Mon Fernandez, Samboy Lim and Chris Tiu the most.

On the top of his list is Hector Calma. “He was an extraordinary player, and an even better person,” coach Norman reveals. He also has high respect for Mon Fernandez because of his accomplishments and work ethic; Samboy Lim, “mainly because I think any lesser player probably would’ve quit basketball considering how many major injuries he had, and he just kept coming back.” He has a lot of respect for Chris Tiu, saying “to be good at basketball, to be good-looking, to be rich, and to be humble at the same time — that’s very difficult to accomplish.”

8. He is in great shape at the age of 53 because, to this day, he works out every day.

In their home, they have a treadmill, stationary bike, cross trainer, and weights. Because he goes to practice with the Talk ‘N Text team at 2 p.m. and the Ateneo team at 6 p.m., he prefers to work out in the morning as soon as he wakes up. “Sometimes I even work out before eating, which is probably not good,” he jokes. He loves to work out and calls himself a “physical fitness nut.” Every day, he goes on the stationary bike for one hour, does light weights, and 700 sit-ups. (Yes, 700!)

Coach Norman Black at the Smart Araneta Coliseum minutes after clinching a rare four-peat jewel. With him are team manager Paolo Trillo and Rissa Mananquil.

9. He used to wake up at 5:30 in the morning every day to tutor his son Aaron.

“That was before geometry, calculus, and everything else they are doing now,” Coach Norman laughs. For Aaron’s whole grade school life, and a little until first year high school (Aaron is now on his second year in high school in the Ateneo, also playing for the Juniors basketball team) Coach Norman would get up extra early to tutor his son before he went off to school. The subjects that were his forte were science, English and math, and his wife Benjie would handle Filipino, history, and Christian living.

10. Coach Norman speaks Tagalog fluently and actually considers himself to be 50-percent Pinoy.

When I asked Coach Norman if he speaks Tagalog, he flashed a big smile and says, “Syempre!” I laughed because of his endearing accent and he quickly defended himself, saying, “Ang problema sa Tagalog ko, barok din.” (Imagine him pronouncing ko as “kow” and barok as “ba-rowk” and you will surely smile.) He is quick to answer that maganda is his favorite Tagalog word and even uses it in a sentence, “Maganda ang asawa ko.” The Tagalog phrases that he uses most often with his players are “Ano ka ba?” “Anong problema mo?” or “anong gusto mo?”  or anything with the word “ano,” actually, especially when they do something mali. 

But more than being able to speak Tagalog, he considers himself to be Pinoy because of his attitude, his acceptance of the culture, and his understanding of the people. He does point out that he still can’t accept the driving habits of some Filipinos and that it “bugs him every day,” but ends with a smile saying, “I’m pretty happy living in the Philippines.”

While listening to coach Norman talk about his philosophy of basketball, I couldn’t help but think how much it actually relates to real life. One particular piece of advice he gives his players is this: he tells them, “You can be a very talented player as an individual, but if you’re not good enough to make your teammates better, then you’re normally not going to win very many games.” For those like me who don’t play basketball and aren’t part of any team sport, that chunk of wisdom still applies! It is true that we must strive to not only make ourselves better, but to help make the people around us better, too. If we all do our best with the different individual roles we are assigned to play, and at the same time push each other to do better, that is how we all succeed. (Of course, my words sound like the beauty queen version of his advice, but it does make the same point, right?)

Coach Norman with Chris Tiu on the court after winning the 2009 back-to-back championship  

For someone who has accomplished so much for himself and for others, it is inspiring to hear coach Norman say: “Success is ongoing, it never stops.”

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E-mail your comments to askiamsuperbianca@yahoo.comor follow me on twitter@iamsuperbianca.


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