Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Spurs' Filipino Coach

My mother, more that 70 years of age, is wooing for the Miami Heat only because Erik Spoelstra is half Filipino and not because of LeBron James and company or the team’s stats, philosophy, tradition, performances, and so forth and so on. To her, those are just collateral. I, first in the brood of 5, am a solid Spurs die hard, by the way.

But I do understand my mother. I know she’s envy of Elisa Celino of San Pablo City, mother of Coach Spo. My mother been a basketball fanatic since Crispa-Toyota days but none of her 4 boys have played or been involved even in small time leagues such as school intramural. Her eldest is not into sports but he was a sportswriter and a gymnasium barker way back in college. Like my mother, many Pinoy NBA fans root for Miami because of Spoelstra’s family roots or his Filipino-ness.

My mother and other Filipinos who cheer for Heat mainly because of Spoelstra’s bloodline have forgotten that there’s an “erstwhile” Filipino from the ranks of the coaching staff of San Antonio Spurs and he is Arthur “Chip” Engelland. Engelland stayed in the Philippines for more than 9 years and became part of the national basketball program and training pool for the Philippines men's national basketball team from 1980 to 1986. The team also used the names Northern Consolidated Cement and San Miguel Beer. Chip Engelland specializes and is in-charge of San Antonio’s shooting skills.

Who said that sports and politics should not be mixed? Chip Engelland’s fate to reach Philippine soil can be traced back in 1980 when President Ferdinand Marcos appointed Ambassador Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco to become the project director for basketball in the Philippines. The goal is to keep the country competitive in international competitions. Though this action was criticized by many especially the nationalists, Cojuangco opted to scout for national players and coaches abroad, particularly in the US. Along with the top Filipino amateur cagers, the Philippine Team made it internationally with 8 naturalized Filipinos in their line-up but the program did not get the support of the Filipino people. Our homegrown talents, as expected, were overshadowed by their American team mates. The pool’s top brasses limited the number of the “naturalized” dribblers into just three and along with the comeback duo of Jeff Moore and Dennis Still, Coach Ron Jacobs added a new player in Chip Engelland, Spurs' assistant coach today.

In 1984, Engelland was cheered and loved by Filipinos when he competed in the PBA when players from the training pool are allowed to play in the professional league as guest team, an all-amateur team called Northern Consolidated Cement (NCC). Chip Engelland traded stories and developed long lasting friendship with Allan Caidic (another favorite of my mother next to Ramon Fernandez), Hector Calma and Samboy Lim and the rest of his Filipino friends. I am sure of that.

Chip Engelland had been part of Philippine sports history no doubt. In 1985, he was part of the guest team which bagged the 1985 PBA Reinforced Conference championship. Chip Engelland became once a Filipino who represented the Philippine basketball team and captured the 1984 ABC Club Championship and the 1985 Jones Cup championship and the 1985 World Cup for Champion Clubs at Gerona, Spain.

Surely I made my mother remember Spurs’ Chip Engelland but failed to convince her that her Heat will be doomed tomorrow and Engelland would finally get his second ring…

(Photo : Clublakers.com)

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