In the 1978 PBA Open Conference, the U/tex Wranglers became the first team to break the monopoly of Crispa and Toyota as far as winning championships. The Wranglers, under coach Tommy Manotoc, originally had Byron “Snake” Jones and Henry Williams as their imports at the start of the second conference. Williams was replaced by Glenn McDonald, a member of the 1976 NBA champion Boston Celtics, midway through the first round of eliminations.
After the double-round eliminations, the four semifinalist were U/tex, Crispa 400s, Tanduay and Toyota. The Wranglers finish with a 10-4 card, going 4-3 in the first round and 6-1 in the second round. Two of U/tex’ losses in the first round were against Tanduay, 113-116 in OT, in the opening of the second conference on July 30, and to Honda, 92-104. Their only loss in the second round was against Toyota, 113-117, as the Tamaraws avenged their 123-132 loss to U/tex in the first round. The Wranglers proved to be Crispa’s nemesis as they beat the 400s twice in the eliminations.
The first playing date of the semifinal round saw U/tex winning over Tanduay, 106-96, and in the main game, the Crispa 400s made it 3-0 over Toyota in their match-up this conference with a 136-123 win.
Crispa and U/tex made it 2-0 in their won-loss card, the 400s beat the Tanduay Esquires, 114-106. The rampaging Wranglers beat Toyota, 117-103. On the third playing date of the first round, the Tamaraws beat the Esquires, 130-128, with Carlos Terry scoring 36 points. U/tex completed a first round sweep with a win over Crispa in the second game.
At the start of the second round, the U/tex Wranglers assured themselves of at least a playoff for a finals berth with their fourth straight victory, a 100-98 squeaker over winless Tanduay as Glenn McDonald scored a high 52 points. The Toyota Tamaraws finally won over Crispa, 130-119, to tie their rivals at 2-win, 2-loss.
U/tex scored a 108-105 overtime win over Toyota to remain unbeaten in the semifinals as McDonald poured in 51 points. Crispa routs Tanduay, 121-104, to moved a game ahead over Toyota. In the last scheduled day of the semifinal round on November 7, the Wranglers, already in the finals, deliberately lose their game against Crispa and the 400s took the second finals seat as both teams will play in a rematch of last year’s championship in this same conference. Toyota guard Sonny Jaworski criticize the Wranglers for losing the match which eliminated the Tamaraws, hoping to gain a tie and a playoff with Crispa had U/tex played their hearts out. The Tamaraws lost to Tanduay later that night that dropped their won-loss record to 2-4, while the Esquires (1-5) scored their first win in the semifinals.
In the Championship series, the U/tex Wranglers scored a 3-0 sweep over Crispa, which had Ansley Truitt and Paul Mills as their imports. U/tex won Game 1 by one point, 95-94, and Game 2, 100-93. In the title-clincher on November 14, Glenn McDonald scored 40 points as the Wranglers moved out of trouble in the final two minutes of a 104-96 victory, for their first-ever PBA crown and avenged their last season’s 3-2 loss to the same Crispa Redmanizers.
Toyota similarly scored a 3-0 sweep over Tanduay in their series for third place. Bruce “Sky” King topscored with 27 points in a 129-113 victory in Game 1. Francis Arnaiz scored 34 points in Toyota’s 134-130 win in Game 2, with Esquires’ Joy Cleofas hitting 33 points for the losers. Toyota went on to defeat Tanduay, 143-132 in overtime in Game 3, to capture third place honors.