PBA, former PH team patron Danding Cojuangco passes away

PBA, former PH team patron Danding Cojuangco passes away

Danding Cojuangco in one way or another helped in building the current Philippine basketball landscape. San Miguel Corporation (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--Philippine basketball lost one of its modern day pillars on Tuesday night as San Miguel Corporation chairman and CEO Danding Cojuangco succumbed to lung cancer at age 85.

Cojuangco is no stranger to the local hoops scene as his company helped in establishing the PBA in 1975.

The SMC was one of the nine companies which bolted out of the old MICAA and formed the de jure professional PBA but is now the only pioneering member that remains active today.

Following SMC's purchase of the La Tondena and Purefoods companies, the food conglomerate now has three representatives in the PBA in flagship club San Miguel Beer, Ginebra, and Magnolia.

Cojuangco was also among the brains behind the Northern Consolidated Cement Philippine team that won the 1985-86 FIBA Asia (then the Asian Basketball Confederation) championship in Malaysia.

Made up mainly of amateur stars, the NCC squad first made its presence known by joining the PBA as a guest team in 1984 and 1985.

NCC would go on to win the 1985 Reinforced Conference title and holds the distinction of being the only amateur squad to win it all in the pro league.

"Thank you for your countless contribution to the PBA and Philippine sports," the PBA said in a statement on Wednesday.

The NCC-backed Nationals qualified for the 1986 FIBA World Cup, but the team was disbanded following the first EDSA Revolution and the Philippines eventually withdrew from competing.

Despite the demise of the NCC program, it became the standard of how national teams should be formed even if FIBA has now allowed professional ballers to join international competitions.

In fact, former PBA commissioner Noli Eala, who helped in building the current iteration of the Philippine squad, the Gilas Pilipinas Men, said, "His NCC concept was my inspiration for the Gilas program."

The formation of the first Gilas Men team was based on the NCC program, that is, the SBP tapped amateur standouts to train them for national team action with center Marcus Douthit coming in as its naturalized player.

Just before the 2011 FIBA Asia Cup, the SBP added some PBA veterans to shore up Gilas Men, but the team came just short of qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics as it only finished fourth.

Eventually, the SBP decided to go all-pro for its next Gilas Men lineups but kept the training regimen to the point that are now practicing even if a PBA conference is ongoing.

Recently, the SBP revived some aspects of Gilas Men 1.0 by bringing in a "Gilas Cadets" pool made up of amateur stars who will train with the national team in early preparation for the 2023 FIBA World Cup that the Philippines will co-host with Indonesia and Japan.

The current Gilas Cadets pool has Isaac Go, Ray Suerte, Matt and Mike Nieto, Allyn Bulanadi, all drafted into the PBA, Thirdy Ravena, Jaydee Tungcab, Juan and Javi Gomez De Liano, Kobe Paras, Dave Ildefonso, Balti Baltazar, and Dwight Ramos in it.

"[He is] a tremendous friend to Philippine basketball. Our prayers for him and the Cojuangco family. The passing of an era," said current Ginebra mentor Tim Cone.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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