View Full Version : Lauro Mumar - "The Fox"

09-10-2009, 03:30 PM
from the book Philippine Sports Greats

Lauro Mumar
by Abraham Dingle

Ask two Filipinos who know their sports fairly well who, between Carlos Loyzaga and Lauro Mumar, is the greatest Filipino basketball player of all time. Chances are that the ensuing argument would wind up into the night or end a beautiful friendship.

Along the same line of argument, Jacinto "Jumping Jack" Ciria Cruz of pre-World War II, and even a fat man called Lou Salvador who made a hundred points or more, would crop up. But Loyzaga and Mumar will be subjects to end all basketball subjects.

It must not be taken to mean that Mumar "The Fox" is "the greatest of them all" As in the cases of Jack Dempsey and Joe Louis, America's Hall of Famers, in boxing, neither could lay claim to the exclusive distinction of being the greatest of them all.

Mumar himself would rather be known for his shining all-around exploits as a player, a referee, a teacher, a coach, all of which he has excelled as no Filipino athlete has. Ironically, he cannot look up to any feather in his cap for being a fairly successful international basketball coach as can Loyzaga.

Loyzaga and Mumar, in the very words of the late Pres. Ramon Magsaysay, "brought new glory and lustre to the name Filipino." President Magsaysay was serving his first year as Chief Executive when the Philippines placed third in the Second World Basketball championship in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1954.

Would Loyzaga h a v e turned out to be great had Mumar not been there to help him shape up as such in that Brazil basketball? It is true that long after Mumar had quit the active play scene, King Caloy as his worthy rival was dubbed, reigned as Asia's best in the sport.

It was King Caloy who got to be 1954's third best individual scorer. But it was Bay Mumar who called most of the Philippine plays that worked so magnificently in all but its "games against eventual champion United States and runner up Brazil.

In one of the final games, the Philippines was not hitting it too well against formidably towering adversaries. One opponent would not forget Lauro Mumar wherever the latter went, whatever he did so that his play-setting was gravely hampered. In turn, the foe was a demon of a shooter and a ballhandler who drove Mumar to wit's end. And at a crucial moment, this player had the ball and itching to be a hero. A glance at the scoreboard told Mumar his team must hit a basket or lose the match forever after. As team captain, he sued for time out.

Moment's later, Mumar faced his arched-enemy, looked him in the eye and seemed to say something. Suddenly, the foe yielded the ball and like a shot of light, Mumar flashed off to convert the basket that paved the way for a brilliant Filipino triumph. Much later, the hilarious tale of how curious that incident happened was told among discreet friends.

Just before he called time out, Mumar conceived of the idea that he could outwit his shrewd opponent by using a trick Mumar himself had never thought of and which probably had never been employed by anyone in the entire history of basketball. The idea was so foolproof in his mind that Mumar decided to break the game up for a moment.

On the bench at time out, Mumar approached then Solicitor General Ambrosio Padilla who had taken over from the indisposed Coach Herminio "Herr" Silva. Mumar told Padilla he would resort to "something" and for Padilla not to do anything about it. As delegation head, Padilla was wary, but he too was desperate. "As long as it's not dirty, go ahead," said Padilla, so the story goes.

Forthwith Mumar retained just so much of the drinking water in his mouth, dashed before his adversary when play was resumed and at a shift of movement,
shot a perfect spit in the eye of the opponent who promptly let the precious ball go. The poor, fellow raved and ranted before the referee, pouring his outrage. But the referee spoke another language and even if he did understand, where was the proof of a commission of a foul, if indeed it could be called thus. All the players were drenched with sweat. Water and not spittle hit him, where was the evidence?

Only Mumar could conjure such innovative tricks for which he earned his names in the game: The Fox, The Eel, The Rubber Man, The Magnificent Fake, "craftiest,
wiliest of cagers to sprout from Hoophet's brown," according to the Sports Columnist Teodoro Benigno.

One of Mumar's tricks, a standard one but which seldom could be anticipated, was to carry the ball at a fastbreak clip and then screech to a dead stop that almost always got his guard smashing against him for a foul, and which at the time always earned him a point (all types of body contacts anywhere on the court and at any period of the game gave the aggrieved player a free throw in those times). Mumar seldom failed to hit the goal from the foul lane.

The hardest to avoid when playing Mumar is his foul-baiting especially when he was shooting. He had an uncanny sense of timing his attempts so that he almost always scored a difficult shot and snared a foul as well, which meant an extra point. Mumar was a ballhawk, too. A competitor never knew when he could dart away with the ball that was seemingly in safe hands. And he could look up innocently at the goal as though to jump at the right moment for the ball. Only he did not; he would step on a good rebounders foot so his teammates could be free to haul the ball away.

Mumar came by these game devices the hard way. If one ever heard of a place called Talibon in Bohol (hence the "Bay") where basketball is played mostly on one makeshift goal with three boys trying to outscore each other in the sun, cunning should not be hard to cultivate. And Mumar brought with him that cunning when he enrolled at the San Carlos University in the neighboring island of Cebu.

Mumar's talent was more than demonstrated, when he powered the provincial team of San Carlos University to the 1947 Intercollegiate Basketball Championship in Manila against tested, title-rich teams as Ateneo de Manila, University of Santo Tomas, and others. Enamored by the big city life; he became a member of the deadly Manila Ports Terminal team that swept the 1946, 1949 and 1950 championships of the Manila Industrial Commerical Athletic Association (MICAA) then as now the major basketball league.

In his first year of commercial ball he was picked to represent the country in the London Olympics together with the Fajardo brothers, Fely and Gabby who later became distinguished national coaches; Manolet Araneta, Eddie Decena, Ding Fulgencio, Andy de la Cruz, Ramoncito Campos, Pocholo Martinez, Francisco Vestil. The combination placed the Philippines fourth in that prestigious international competition, a feat worth crowing about.

From the MICAA, he realized that college education was a necessary prerequisite for his personal advancement. He thus enrolled at Letran College in 1951. His MICAA exploits were enough credentials for the title hungry Letran Knights in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) then the undisputed glamour league of Philippine cagedom. With only a game or two to their credit, the Letran Knights came to be known by sportswriters and fans alike as Murder, Inc, when they played, they literally murdered the opposing teams with their deadly shooting, lethal passing combinations that almost always lead to sure kills at the basket and “death” of the foes' pennant hopes.

Mumar was undisputedly chairman of the board of Murder Inc. Such personalities as Herminio Astorga (who later became Vice-Mayor of Manila), Luis Tabuena, (now manager of the Manila International Airport), Panis, Iglesias, and Nilo Verona (who has become famous as a basketball coach), were the directors. With eight straight victories, they smashed the other college teams, to win the NCAA crown. Never was Letran as great again.

In 1953, tiring of being a college boy, he joined the Price Stabilization Corporation team (PRISCO), where all hardcourt luminaries drifted. Once more a distinguished path was cut for Mumar as PRISCO snatched every prestigious championship Manila had to offer -- the MICAA, the National Open, the Challenge to Champions in which all the titled teams from the commercial, collegiate and varsity sectors mixed it up.

Meanwhile, Mumar had tucked away the first two Asian Games titles in basketball, and the most memorable one being held in Manila in 1954, At the time, the incomparable Carlos Loyzaga was already a name to reckon with in the game.

In the basketball finals at the Rizal Coliseum that year (1954), the Philippines was hard put in disposing of the Nationalist Chinese quintet before a crowd that spilled
right into the court’s borders. Suddenly, in the last quarter or so of the conflict, the land's defensive man, Rafael Hechanova (a cannier one than Mumar in that position), seemed to bat the ball squarely off a shooting Chinese and the referee whistled a foul.

The Coliseum broke loose. Debris rained into the court. Play was halted and in the lull someone hurled a pop bottle that bounced and cut a Chinese player in the face.

It was a black day for the Filipinos. But Herminio "Herr" Silva, the wiliest Filipino coach of all, saved the remaining minutes by ordering what came to be known as the Big Freeze.

To avoid further body contacts that could lead to uglier incidents, the Filipino players went to the center line and passed the ball around leisurely, not moving from where they stood at regular distances from each other, not caring if the Chinese cared to contest possession or not.

The Chinese just stared or even sat on the court. Time ran out and the Philippines retained the championship they had first won in New Delhi four years earlier.

Herr Silva's strategy later led to the revision of the international rules of basketball. Henceforth, no team was allowed to keep the ball for more than 30 seconds without at least trying to shoot it.

Bay Mumar was at his best ever in the Second World Basketball Championship in Rio de Janeiro in 1954, a series of games for which he had never prepared so much more in his whole playing career. It was to be the principal highlight of his active hardcourt days, and to which he almost never went.

The circumstances attending the event are mightily confusing up to this day, even after decisions appeared to have been righted and after Mumar's explanations had been accepted.

On the morning of October 6, a few scant weeks before the championship was to start, Mumar, team captain, failed to show up with the team at the Manila International Airport where a Northwest Airlines plane waited for him for a quarter of an hour before winging off to San Francisco for the first of a series of tuneup games.

His absence promptly sent sports hierarchy into righteous indignation. A hastily summoned conference of basketball association officials sought to ban him for life from basketball. But after a surface probe of Mumar's reason for not showing up, they slapped a year's suspension on him. Carlos Loyzaga, sub-skipper, was raised in rank. And that should have been that. Except for a hero-worshiping nation. Touch an idol and you're in trouble.

Mumar's reason for staying behind was that he did not have the money for the trip. That was enough explanation for a people who blew the case into the proportion of a national gale, as sportswriters observed. To the Philippine Amateur Athletic Federation, ruling body of the country's sports, Mumar sacrificed the welfare of the whole team for his own personal convenience.

But to every basketball lover, and even to those who hardly understood the game, the suspension fanned a wave of indignation. To them, it was a decision against the poor. This was expressed in hard terms by newspaper editorials and high officialdom.

The late Mayor Arsenio H. lacson charged that the decision "shows the paleolithic mentality of old fossils .. in the Federation. It should be the PAAF officials who should be suspended. They should have nothing more to do with athletics in the country," Hizzoner cried.

"I know what kind of pocket money the PAAF give to athletes because I had been a member of such delegations. It's not even enough for a haircut," charged the raybanned, abrasive-tongued Mayor who was himself an athlete of note.

Almost a week after, the PAAF relented and summoned Murnar. In a "high cut" (that hair fashion of the Forties in which the temples were shaved clean up to about an inch above the ear), groove-checked in his leanness which showed in the folded sleeves of a loose polo shirt, he appeared before the jury at the Manila Hotel. He gave those who would judge him a tale that rent the heart.

Mumar's story:
"My problem was at once simple and difficult, that of securing pocket money for the trip abroad. It was rendered more difficult because I belonged to a poor family. All my efforts to secure this amount from other sources were futile so I finally had to depend on whatever my parents could give me.

"It was during the Philippine team's tour of the South that I requested my parents to furnish me this pocket money. I was very happy when they said they could, although I knew this would certainly strain their finances.

to be continued

09-10-2009, 04:52 PM

"But then something occurred - call it irony. It was at this precise time that news came from Rio de Janeiro that the Brazil World Basketball Championship would be postponed. My parents, not having the desired amount at the time, told me it was fortunate that the championship was delayed because they would have more time for securing the money.

"They said they would then mail it to Manila when the team returned from its Southern sojourn, But the news from Rio de Janeiro turned out to be unofficial and the PAAF was not informed of any postponement.

"As a result, we were informed that there would be no change in our plans and that we would leave on the scheduled date, October 6. You could imagine how frantic I was. I immediately wired my parents to please send the money immediately as we would have to leave just the same on October 6.

"This time I had doubts that I would receive the money on time. Talibon is 120 kilometers from Tagbilaran. Capital of Bohol, all mail from the province are coursed through Cebu. So what my parents did was to undertake an arduous eight-hour journey by ferry to Cebu City.

"But even their best efforts proved naught. When the money failed to arrive the day before the departure, I told our coach 'Herr' Silva that presumably I would not be able to receive my pocket money on time and that therefore, I would not be able to make the October 6 trip.

"At noon on October 5, I received a telegram from my mother informing me that she had sent the money that very same day. Her brief wire read: 'MAILING TWO THOUSAND PESOS. MAMA.'

"But even then, I resorted to something else just so I could make the October 6 trip. I approached my boss, William Li Yao, and requested him to advance the money which I would later reimburse upon receipt of the money from my parents. Somehow or other, this request was declined, Yet, I was still very hopeful that the money from Talibon would arrive on time.

"That was my mistake and I admit it in all humility. There are times when one just commits mistakes like these without knowing their complications. I realized that I should have been more responsible. Now as I look back to it, what I should have done was to leave with the team. Somebody, perhaps the PAAF, could have forwarded the money to me abroad.

"What I did was wrong. But nothing in my talks with the PAAF officials ever indicated that I would be so ruthlessly penalized."

One item that Mumar tried to hide was that the money he so badly needed was not for just pocket money alone. He told the PAAF executive committee that it was for the family he was leaving behind. The rent was unpaid, the electric bills, water bills, lots of things, were all unpaid. As he waited the decision, he silently cried.

The PAAF officials let him go and he caught up somewhere in the homestretch of the Philippines team's tuneup games across the US.

On the day the team hit Rio de Janeiro, Mumar was his old self so that when the Philippines plunged into its first world championship game against Paragay, the team struck observers as fast-dribbling, swift-striking, limitlessly resourceful in winning a resounding 64-52 which alone shoved the Philippines into the finals. Mumar hit for 21 points as a guard in that game with Brazil, but the Filipinos were badly mauled, 99-63, following the fouling out of Loyzaga with only three minutes gone in the second half.

Again, Mumar led the scoring with 14 points in the Philippine-US encounter, leading his team to a 31-26 score. But play was rough and although the Filipinos held the ball until they were sure of scoring, the Americans were more accurate to win by 56-43.

Against the Chinese, Mumar was benched the entire first half which settled at 21-all. When he was sent in there, his overall generalship, spectacular set plays and passes burst the dam for a 48-36 triumph. The Filipinos were to lose only once more after that, and that was to Brazil, 57-41.

But that was after the Filipinos did not even have to be particularly hot to ride roughshod over Israel, 90-56. Observers noticed a kink, one that has never ceased to haunt succeeding Philippine teams, a fault that was never so glaring when Mumar himself handled the national quintet to the 1969 Asian Basketball Confederation championship in Bangkok. This was a nagging weakness in individual defense.

At the time, that did not bother the Filipinos, as they hurled the remaining obstacles one after the other - Canada by 83-76, the hitherto seeded France, 66-60; finally, Urugway, 67-63.

In all those games, it was Loyzaga who was outstanding in the rebounds and shooting, along with the spitfire Antonio Genato or Francisco Rabat or Rafael Barreto and Mariano Tolentino. But Mumar always called the shots, even excelling in the scoring department against Canada with 22 points.

Mumar also forced a fast pace, working out intricately the extensive man-for-man plays of Silva that graduated into exquisitely beautiful fastbreaks if they were not switching to the outmoded zone defense that wholly choked off opposition.

But Loyzaga came out the third best individual scorer of the entire series, knocking in 33 points against Uruguay in the final game to be behind Uruguayan marksman Oscar Moglia (139 points) and Canadian Cart Ridd (127). Ridd once made 40 points, Loyzaga's total was 121. That got Loyzaga into the' second team of a mythical world selection.

Was Mumar then less of a player than Loyzaga? Ambrosio Padilla, head of the team, said no and so did Silva, the man they called the Taskmaster or Prussian Drillmaster and to whom present-day experts compare to Mumar as a coach.

The basketball team returned home to the tumultuous acclaim of a happy nation on November 16, 1954.

On the way home, Mumar helped analyze the Rio games for a distinguished wire agency sportswriter. With Silva from whom he learned so much, Mumar observed that "Other nations are playing better basketball all the time. It is quite possible that the United States will lose sometime (the U.S. swept the series unbeaten) in the Olympics. The general standard of play in Rio was very good, and not all nations were there which will play the Olympics."

In 1969 in Bangkok, when he saw his team failing to pieces his observations were still the same. ''They've caught up with us," he sighed. But in 1954, he knew the folly of building up a team around one good man as the French did with their giant Jean Beunot. "When he was stopped, the whole team was stopped," Mumar perceived then. In Bangkok, Mumar devised ways to halt the Korean Shin Dong-Pa. He failed because he did not have the right men as Herr Silva had in Rio de Janeiro.

Mumar's failure as a coach in the Bangkok venture was the low point of his long career. The national coaching job was one he had desired fervently shortly after he stopped playing actively in 1956.

He was contracted to bring brilliance to the so-so Feati Tech Flyers and right away that band could not be put down as champions until three seasons later. He held Fil-Hispano team in the Businessman's league, and lo! Fil-Hispano was another champion. The Philippine Air Force, under Bay, was unbeatable in the Inter-Service league and was always a bright spot in National Opens. And so was Yutivo. All these teams had nothing but discards for men, but with Mumar as coach, they suddenly were players other teams had to contend with.

Yet, these successes were no step up the ladder to a national coaching job as far as the authorities were concerned.

And so for the first time, Mumar pulled his roots and went to India which had offered a sizable amount to build a basketball team. If prophets were not appreciated at home, he would preach somewhere else.

Of the six sports specialists India employed in 1963 to man the Indian Sports Institute in Patialah, Mumar was the only Southeast Asian in a staff that included two Russians, a Czechoslavak, an Englishman and an American.

After 20 months, he brought home his family for a visit and reported glowingly that if India continued its basketball program, it would soon score the whey out of
other Asians including the Philippines. The average height of an Indian high school boy is five-feet-eleven, a collegian stands six-three. Yet he doused early Indian enthusiasm in the game when he opposed a plan to send a team to the Olympic preliminaries at Yokohama in 1964 where the Philippines was eliminated for the first time in the World Game before it could even reach the first round. The humilating defeat was dealt by Indonesia.

Still, home was home, so that in 1967, even after a deputy directorship of the Sports Institute was offered to him, Mumar declined it and came back.

He became an instructor at the National College of Physical Education, took back his old job as physicial education director at Feati University, perhaps even contemplated on running as a councilor in the Fourth District of Manila at a time when his long-time rival, Carlos Loyzaga, was running for a similar City Hall position (he became councilor).

The following year, Loyzaga who has had coaching stints with one-time MICAA unbeatable Yco, was appointed national coach to the Asian Basketball Congress in Seoul, Korea. The Philippines won handily to wipe out the black mark of the 1964 Olympics and the 1966 Asian Cames in which it lost the crown.

But Loyzaga suffered lapses and was relieved of his other coaching job at the University of Santo Tomas when that school's Glowing Goldies were dulled by a 44-point loss to a provincial quintet, the Southwestern College.

Mumar stepped in, putting in his son Lawrence as his mainstay. Meanwhile, he handled a new MICAA team, Mariwasa which right away took the 1968 commercial crown, repeated in 1969, and then switched to Meralco in 1970. Meralco took the MICAA championship in 1971 on Mumar's second year stint as the Reddy Kilowatt mentor.

Bay Mumar almost turned bitter again soon after when it was again time to pick the National coach to Bangkok. Loyzaga was very much in the running. But as it was that time 15 years ago, the mass media intervened. Loyzaga stepped down and Mumar finally realized his lifelong ambition.

Right away he set about to enforcing his formula for success. He wanted first two months to condition his players, to just delve in fundamentals and little basketball.

He would announce practice dates only after each workout so his players would be used to sudden scheduling as is the organizing committee's wont in international competitions.

The criteria for making the team was based on: 1. Statistics, 2. Attendance, 3. Agility and versatility (positioning other than designated post with capability in pertormance, whether the player be a guard, forward or center), 4. Aggressiveness (desire to play at all times), 5. Attitude (with coach, teammates and authorities), 6. Ability to lead (in and out of the game, start/commence/control plays), 7. Room for improvement considering preparations for two months. A player must also excel in assists, dribbling, charge-blocking, footwork, field goal and free-throwing, passing and receiving, offensive-defensive (steals, interceptions, blocks, etc.).

In disciplining his men, he has only to look stern or at times act the father that he is. His players sense it when he is displeased.

But bad luck haunted Bay Mumar. Some good players did not turn up in the tryouts - they either were entirely disinterested, were taking up exams, got married or what else. The result was that when he finally rounded up a team, he had one stiff-necked player, another whose ability he did not trust too much and none with an extra defensive knock. He cannot live down the downfall that the country suffered in its premier sport, despite subsequent successes with his teams at home.

Still, after everything, Mumar would not call himself a great one. He would want to be remembered for his exploits as a player extraordinaire, as a no-nonsense referee, as an articulate if sometime ungrammatical teacher, as a discerning coach. Never as the greatest of them all.