Last year's goodbyes
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson () - January 15, 2010 - 12:00am

There were several sports figures who passed away last year. This list is to honor their memory.

Tony Chua, 57. The former PBA chairman died of a heart attack at the height of typhoon Ondoy last September. He served as PBA governor and team manager of the Red Bull/Barako Bull franchise since 2000.

Ed Pacheco, 73. A long-time Philippine Sports Commission consultant, he was a basketball and football star during his heyday. Pacheco was on the national basketball team that competed at the 1962 Asian Games in Jakarta and the 1966 Asian Basketball Confederation championships in Taiwan. The speedy guard was a stalwart for Ysmael Steel in the local cage circuit.

Rod Nazario, 74. Manny Pacquiao’s former business manager was credited for bringing the Filipino ring icon to global prominence. It was Nazario who took Pacquiao to the US in 2001, looking for greener pastures. Nazario was also a well-known boxing promoter with a large stable of top-class fighters.

Sam Unera, 56. The player agent was responsible for negotiating the contracts of a slew of high-caliber imports, including Billy Ray Bates, Carlos Briggs, Michael Hackett and Jaime Waller, with PBA teams. As general manager of the United States Basketball League team Pennsylvania Valley Dawgs, he signed up Vince Hizon and Bong Alvarez as the first and only Filipinos ever to play in the Stateside minors. 

Bernard Docusen, 81. It’s a little-known fact that the Fil-French fighter, known as the “Big Duke,” battled the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson for the world welterweight title in Chicago in 1948. He fought Robinson on even terms until Sugar Ray scored a knockdown in the 11th and dominated the rest of the way to win on points. His father Regino was from Rosales, Pangasinan, and mother Viola DelMolle Lytell was French. He was married to American wife Ernestine for 64 years and survived by six children, 15 grandchildren, 29 great grandchildren and one great-great grandchild.

Jayson Nocom, 23. The former Jose Rizal University and PBL forward was killed in a motorcycle accident in Batangas. He played three years with the Heavy Bombers, averaging 7.2 points, in the NCAA and saw action for Burger King and Oracle in the PBL.

Virgilio (Boy) Manuel, 66. The former Philippine Sportswriters Association president died after a sudden illness at the family home in Tuguegarao. He was a sports editor, columnist and baseball writer. Boy used to walk around with a matchstick poking out of his mouth and regaled friends with analytical and poetic stories in his deep baritone.

* * * *

In the international scene, we also marked the deaths of the following:

Ingemar Johansson, 76. The Swede, known for his “toonder and lightning” right hand, knocked out Floyd Patterson to win the world heavyweight title at Yankee Stadium in 1959 but lost to the “peek-a-boo” master in two rematches.

Alexis Arguello, 57. A three-time world champion, he became the mayor of Managua, Nicaragua, after his retirement. He stopped two Filipinos – Rolando Navarrete and Andy Ganigan – during his celebrated reign as world titlist. Arguello died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Arturo Gatti, 37. The former WBC superlightweight and IBA welterweight champion was a “blood-and-guts” slugger who enjoyed a huge fan following because of his devil-may-care style. He died under mysterious circumstances during a visit to Brazil where his wife Amanda Rodrigues is from. It was initially reported that Gatti committed suicide but evidence has since emerged pointing to foul play possibly involving his wife.

Vernon Forrest, 38. The Viper beat Sugar Shane Mosley twice and regained the WBC lightmiddleweight crown from Sergio Mora in his last bout in September 2008. He was gunned down by robbers in a gasoline station in Atlanta. His ring record was 41-3, with 29 KOs.

Randy Smith, 60. The MVP of the 1978 NBA All-Star Game held the league record for consecutive games played – 906 – for 14 years. Smith was the Buffalo Braves’ seventh round pick in the 1971 and hailed by Hall of Famer Jack Ramsay as the best athlete he ever coached. In 1975, the former soccer All-America from Buffalo State visited Manila during the Walt Frazier exhibition series.

Other NBA personalities who died last year were Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin, 85, Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson, 86, former Detroit Pistons and US Olympic coach Chuck Daly, 78, former Chicago Bulls guard Norm (The Storm) Van Lier, 61, 7-l center Marvin (The Human Eraser) Webster, 50, 6-9 center Johnny (Red) Kerr (the 1967 NBA Coach of the Year with the Chicago Bulls), 76, 5-11 Al Cervi, 92, and 6-8 Wayman Tisdale, 44.

Some more sports luminaries who passed away were baseball’s Mark (The Bird) Fidrych, 54, German goalkeeper Robert Enke, 32, pro wrestling’s Captain Lou Albano, 76, and tennis’ Jack Kramer, 88.

Postscript. The NBA season began with five new head coaches - Detroit’s John Kuester, Minnesota’s Kurt Rambis, Washington’s Flip Saunders, Philadelphia’s Eddie Jordan and Sacramento’s Paul Westphal. So far, two coaches have been fired during the campaign – New Jersey’s Lawrence Frank (replaced by Kiki Vandeweghe) and New Orleans’ Byron Scott whose job was taken over by Jeff Bower. Kuester isn’t expected to survive the season as the Pistons are now a lowly 12-25 and just broke out of a 13-game losing streak. Avery Johnson was Detroit’s first pick as coach but negotiations broke down. Kuester, 54, steered George Washington University to a 1-27 record in 1988-89 – an indication of his coaching ability. In 1979, Kuester was assigned to guard former UCLA star Ann Meyers during a tryout camp with the Indiana Pacers. Meyers tried to become the first woman to play in the NBA and failed.

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