Boss Danding: Passionate patronage of Philippine basketball

Gerry Plaza on Jun 18, 2020 08:13 AM
Boss Danding: Passionate patronage of Philippine basketball
Photo by Arvin Lim

He is called many titles and salutations—ambassador, chairman, governor, presidentiable, political kingmaker, but Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco has long been regarded as a devoted and passionate patron who inspired many other business tycoons to help advance the cause of Philippine basketball.

Boss Danding is best remembered for carrying the torch in the country’s long-coveted dream to regain international basketball supremacy. As the project director for basketball appointed by the late president Ferdinand Marcos, he would conceptualize and develop a farm team of the best players in the amateur ranks to form a team he bankrolled and named after his old construction materials firm Northern Consolidated Corp.

Northern Cement became the “flag-carrier” of sorts in the turning point of Philippine basketball in the early 1980s. This RP squad drew the big names like Frankie Lim, JB Yango, Hector Calma, Allan Caidic, Pido Jarencio, Samboy Lim, Yves Dignadice, Jun Tan, Elmer Reyes, Tonichi Yturri, Franz Pumaren, Naning Valenciano, Leo Austria, Teddy Alfarero, Louie Brill, Fil-American recruit Ricardo Brown and the late Alfie Almario and Rey Cuenco to its roster over the years. This is in addition to the first-ever move of acquiring the services of “naturalized” Filipinos—American players Chip Engelland, Dennis Still, John Hegwood, Johnny Nash, and Jeff Moore that made the Philippines a force to reckon with in Asian basketball.

In those years, Danding brought in the prized tactician Ron Jacobs to steer the ship to glory, and that eventually happened in 1982, when the Philippines copped the Asian Youth crown, and in 1985, its first Asian Basketball Confederation (now FIBA Asia) crown since 1973. With Boss Danding at the helm, the NCC-powered Philippine team qualified for the 1986 World Basketball Championships (now FIBA World) in Madrid, Spain.

At this point, their chances of landing a respectable finish was big. However, the team would later withdraw from the World Championships after the 1986 People Power revolution and the Basketball Association of the Philippines scrapped the program, as it was identified with the toppled government of the late president Ferdinand Marcos.

Yet Boss Danding’s patronage of Philippine basketball didn’t end there.

Since regaining his chairmanship of San Miguel Corporation after years in exile, Boss Danding would further develop and push its corporate PBA team to a dynasty of sorts in Asia’s first professional basketball league.

It began with the 1989 Grand Slam of the San Miguel Beermen, which was composed of the local nucleus of his old Norther Cement squad. San Miguel’s All-Filipino championship in the 1994 PBA season led to Boss Danding’s renewed chance to control the reigns of the Philippine national team, with the Beermen tasked to represent the country in the 1994 Hiroshima Asian Games. He brought back Coach Ron Jacobs to assist San Miguel Grand Slam coach Norman Black in the campaign. The Beermen-powered RP team, composed likewise with reinforcements from other PBA teams and top amateur players, bagged the Bronze.

Of the 27 total championships of the San Miguel franchise in the PBA, 22 of them were attained when Boss Danding had been the top honcho of San Miguel Corporation, showing his dedication of molding championship-caliber squads.

And this includes being a silent yet formidable patron of his alma mater, De La Salle University, in the UAAP. As the Green Archers’ main supporter in the league, Boss Danding would inspire and encourage the team in its 9 UAAP titles, with the last two, in Seasons 76 and 79, being quite active in honing and building those championship squads.

Indeed Boss Danding, who passed away on Tuesday, June 16, at age 85 due to a lung ailment, will sorely be missed in the Philippine sports and basketball community, being one passionate individual in pursuit of excellence and a rabid supporter of the Philippine push to basketball world glory.

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