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Transitional Development of TNT Tropang Giga PBA Basketball

2023/01/26

Formerly known as the Talk 'N Text Tropang Texters, the TNT Tropang Giga has been competing in the PBA as a professional basketball team since 1990.

They are currently owned by Smart Communications, a subsidiary of the Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT). In addition to the Meralco Bolts and NLEX Road Warriors, businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan presently owns this PBA franchise.

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As well as being one of the oldest teams in the PBA and one of the most successful in league history, the franchise has won a total of seven regular season PBA titles and one special event title.

This glory wasn't a day job but rather a trial-over-trial task. Below are some transitional developments of the team.

Transitional Development of TNT Tropang Giga PBA Basketball

PBA Highlights: Pepsi-Cola/7 Up (Pepsi-Cola Products Philippines, Inc., 1990–1996)

During the 1990 season, the PBA welcomed Pepsi-Cola Products Philippines, Inc. and its rival, Pop Cola, both of whom were soft drink manufacturers, as new members.

In their first season together, 1990, they were dubbed the Pepsi Hotshots. Ed Ocampo was their first coach; Olympic medalist Bobby Littaua was his assistant, and Steve Watson was the team manager.

The Hotshots won their first game of the season, 149-130, but then went on to lose every game in the first conference. Their losing skid reached 15 games during the All-Filipino, but they were able to break it with a victory over Diet Sarsi (previously Pop Cola).

Pepsi's Hotshots were winless in the third conference playoffs under new head coach Derrick Pumaren, who was previously an assistant coach with the San Miguel Beermen.

In an effort to compete, the team offered Alvin Patrimonio, Purefoods TJ Hotdogs' star player, a five-year, P25 million contract.

Since Purefoods' offer was matched by Patrimonio's original team, he decided to remain with them. Regardless, Pepsi's third-place team in the conference advanced to the playoffs and ultimately placed fourth.

Despite selecting Victor Pablo second overall, 7 Up lost in the conference quarterfinals in both of their first two seasons.

The Pepsi Mega Bottlers played under the original Pepsi brand in the third season. They finished in the fourth position at the end of the 1993 Governor's Cup.

An unusual coaching swap occurred between Pepsi and Sunkist in the lead-up to the 1994 PBA Governor's Cup. Derrick Pumaren was traded to the RFM club in exchange for Yeng Guiao.

Pepsi's inconsistent play continued even after they hired a new coach, with the 1994 Governors' Cup being their best finish to date, thanks in large part to the addition of Ronnie Coleman.

In 1995, after getting off to a good start in the Governors' Cup, they finished with a 5-2 record and no hardware.

Transitional Development of TNT Tropang Giga PBA Basketball

PBA Highlights: Mobiline (Pilipino Telephone Corporation, 1996–2001)

The president of Pepsi Cola Products Philippines, Inc. was replaced by Frederick Dael before the 1996 season began. Due to this shift in marketing focus, they are considering ending the PBA franchise.

Luis Lorenzo, chairman of PCPPI, planned to sell the PBA franchise to Duty Free Philippines, another firm he owned, for one peso (P1). This would have prevented the dissolution of the team.

If Duty Free decides to dismantle the PBA franchise, Pepsi will reclaim it. Since Lorenzo did not control a majority of Duty Free, the Board of Governors voted against the sale at a special meeting on January 5. The Hotshots finished dead last in the All-Filipino Cup with a 4-10 record.

The franchise was sold by Pepsi Cola Products Philippines, Inc. to Lapanday Holdings Corporation, a holding firm owned by the Lorenzo family, following the All-Filipino Cup.

In doing so, the Lorenzos will be able to promote and employ a separate brand for their PBA team. The responsibility of coming up with a new name for the team fell on Pagemark Philippines, Inc. of Lapanday Holdings and Pilipino Telephone Corporation (PILTEL). The team's name was changed to the Mobiline Cellulars following discussions.

Pop Cola traded the first overall pick to Mobiline, and the company used it to select Andrew John Seigle, an American of Filipino descent.

The Cellulars also acquired Patrick Fran via free agency and selected Tony Boy Espinosa. Former San Miguel coach Norman Black was hired by Mobiline, and 1995 Rookie of the Year Jeffrey Cariaso was acquired from Alaska via an offer sheet for a three-year contract worth P18.3 million.

The Cellulars made it all the way to the semi-finals of the All-Filipino Conference, but even with the help of reinforcement Isaiah Morris, they were eliminated from the Commissioner's Cup in the quarterfinals.

Artemus "Tee" McClary was put on display, and new head coach Derrick Pumaren was brought in with Tommy Manotoc serving as a consultant for the Governor's Cup. Mobiline had a respectable showing in the Governor's Cup, although they did not advance to the semifinals.

The Phone Pals had a rough 1998 season, finishing with a 4-7 record in All-Filipino play. It competed in the Commissioner's Cup by recruiting Eric Altamirano, a coach from Purefoods.

The Pals, this time with Tarquin Mott as their import, went out in the semifinals of the Governor's Cup, just as they had in 1997.

Transitional Development of TNT Tropang Giga PBA Basketball

PBA Highlights: Talk 'N Text (Smart Communications, 2001–present)

Since the 2001 Governors' Cup, when Smart Communications took over the franchise from the defunct Pilipino Telephone Corporation, the two teams have competed under the same name. Talk 'N Text Phone Pals became the squad's new moniker.

Despite appeals from the nationalist Basketball Coaches Association of the Philippines to ban the American instructor, Talk 'N Text ultimately decided to replace Alas with former UNLV coach Bill Bayno prior to the 2002 season.

Richie Frahm and Jerald Honeycutt, a replacement immigrant, bannered Talk 'N Text despite the loss of Asi Taulava and Patrick Fran to the National Pool.

The Phone Pals were the top team in the Governor's Cup elimination round, but they were once again stunned by the eighth-seeded San Miguel Beermen.

Talk 'N Text, led by Honeycutt and Pete Mickeal, ended a curse in the Commissioner's Cup when the seventh-seeded Phone Pals won their quarterfinal match against Sta. Lucia and their semifinal match against Alaska in five games to advance to the team's third Finals appearance overall and first since 1998.

Seven exhausting games later, Red Bull emerged victorious over Talk 'N Text. After he was released, Bayno left the club without sparing the PBA of his criticism, saying that the league was biased in favor of the San Miguel Corporation teams.

The tournament was won by Talk 'N Text in six games over the incumbent champion Coca-Cola. Winning Game Five in overtime, the Phone Pals went on to win Games 6, 7, and 8 to become the first team since 1982 to return from a 0-2 hole and win the following four games.

After winning the PBA Finals' Best Player of the Conference award, Taulava was also named the Finals' Most Valuable Player.
After playing for the Philippine national team at the Asian Games, Taulava rejoined the All-Filipino squad, but the Phone Pals were eliminated in the quarterfinals.

New head coach Paul Woolpert, another American, had succeeded Bill Bayno.

PBA Highlights: Conclusion

TNT lost on Sunday, but despite the setback, they are now second in the PBA cup standings. San Miguel successfully defended its title as the top All-Filipino team by winning the PBA Philippine Cup with a shocking 119-97 victory over TNT in Game 7 on September 4 at the Araneta Coliseum.

With this victory, San Miguel reclaimed its position as the finest All-Filipino squad.

The Beermen won a record-extending 28th championship after defeating the Tropang Giga in a lopsided fourth quarter.CJ Perez, June Mar Fajardo, and Chris Ross all turned in outstanding performances during the game.

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