BLACK TO COACH RED BULL?

NEW YORK CITY, DECEMBER 2, 2003  (STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson — On the Northwest Airlines flight from Manila to Detroit via Nagoya a few days ago, I bumped into player agent Sam Unera and Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) import Terrence Shannon of FedEx.

Unera, 53, is the general manager of the United States Basketball League (USBL) club Pennsylvania Valley Dawgs and works for a cable TV network in the East Coast. He played on the Adamson University varsity team with Ompong Segura and Joy Dionisio in the 1970s. When Unera tried out for a spot on the Crispa club, owner Danny Floro asked him to recruit imports instead. Unera flew to the US, started a successful career as a recruiter and settled in Allentown where he now lives with his wife and three children. Among the quality imports he has brought to Manila through the years were Billy Ray Bates, Michael Hackett, Al Green, Henry James, Carlos Briggs, Jermaine Walker, and his first-ever talent Otto Moore.

Living in the US was like an adventure for Unera. He couldn’t live on a recruiter’s commission alone so he found work doing other things. One of his first jobs was handling a TV camera on the Bob Barker show "The Price Is Right." Eventually, he was hired by a Pennsylvania cable company and worked his way to an executive position.

Unera’s love for the game led to his association with the Valley Dawgs, owned by the cable company where he works. His magic touch brought the Dawgs to the USBL title two years ago with Darryl Dawkins as head coach. A rabid Dawgs fan is former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes whose daughter was once on the team’s cheerdancing squad. Holmes lives in Scranton, near Allentown, and is among Unera’s closest friends.

It was during the two-hour stopover in Nagoya when I saw Unera, Shannon and Corey Brown, a former University of New Orleans player. We were in the terminal waiting to board the flight to Detroit. Brown, who is Shannon’s cousin, went to Manila hoping to play in the PBA, hooked up with Bobby Parks and wound up seeing action in Cebu.

From Detroit, Unera flew to Allentown while Shannon and Brown proceeded to Chicago, their hometown.

I asked Shannon about his PBA experience. "It was great," he replied. "Too bad we (FedEx) came up short. I would’ve loved to play on. We’ve got talent on that team but to win, we’ve got to play together. I think Kwan Johnson deserves the Best Import award. My prediction as to which teams will play in the Finals? San Miguel Beer and Talk ‘N’ Text."

Shannon said he’ll probably play in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) or the National Basketball Development League (NBDL) if a European offer doesn’t materialize. He’s not giving up on his dream to someday play in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Unera said Shannon was a victim of Manila’s wild nightlife. "Too many temptations he couldn’t resist," he noted. "I heard he drank too much. But he’s an outstanding athlete. I think he would’ve been a perfect import for Ginebra because of his exciting style."

Unera brought Scott Burrell to Red Bull in the Reinforced Conference and paid tribute to the former Chicago Bulls reserve. "He’s a true pro," said Unera, referring to Burrell. "No vices. If he’s not on the court or in the gym, he’s playing golf."

Unera said he was surprised to learn that coach Yeng Guiao offered to resign from Red Bull after the Barako’s recent elimination in the quarterfinals. If Guiao doesn’t return to Red Bull next year and decides to run for public office in Pampanga in May (he’s now in the Provincial Board), Unera speculated that Norman Black could be his replacement–at least that’s what he heard from the grapevine.

More on Unera in Tuesday’s column.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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