Monday, March 13, 2023

Toyota reunites one more time....

      The Toyota personalities pose for a photo op 

“Bitin kami….”


That was the first thing Gil Cortez told Sports Potpourri when asked why the Toyota players wanted to meet up once more. 


It was supposed to be a small gathering to give a fitting sendoff to Roberto “Judge” Concepcion, who was going back to the West Coast next week. The original plan was to gather around 6-8 teammates for lunch and a few drinks at a Mediterranean restaurant in Rockwell. 


Somehow, everyone who went to the 50th grand reunion party last February 18 gave their nod in the Toyota viber group, forcing Cortez to change the venue. Coach Dante Silverio readily offered his Gaslight events place along Pasong Tamo Extension, the same venue from last month’s party, and it was set. 


Cortez then called 4x PBA MVP Ramon Fernandez and confirmed that he would be in Manila on March 11. But because Fernandez had a lunch meeting, the group decided to set the get-together at a later time – moving lunch to dinner instead. Silverio made sure there was plenty of food and entertainment, Cortez brought liquor and wine.


Early birds were Concepcion, Ulysses Rodriguez and Ed Camus, who all came from the east and rode in one vehicle. Cortez also arrived before 4PM while SIlverio, the ever-gracious host, was already in his half-buttoned silk shirt to welcome everyone. Slowly, the others came in – Fernandez, Emerito Legaspi, Oscar Rocha, Ed Cordero, Pol Herrera and their loyal driver, Mon Valdez. Around 5PM, Rollie Marcelo trooped his way welcomed by a gleeful ribbing from his teammates. Marcelo tried to go to the February 18 reunion but couldn’t find the venue while along Pasong Tamo and opted to go home instead. Last to arrive was Ompong Segura.


There was no program this time, just plenty of food and drinks and a videoke player and a sophisticated audio setup. Silverio kicked things off as he performed an Elvis Presley ditty followed by a Beatles track. But it was his version of “Ticket to Ride” that got everyone to sing along with him. Soon after, Legaspi held the mic and performed back-to-back APO songs, “Kabilugan ng Buwan” and “Kaibigan.” Cortez then rendered a James Taylor hit, “If I Keep My Heart Out of Sight” and Stevie Wonder’s “Knocks Me Off my Feet.” 

       Coach "Osbok" Dante Silverio crooning a Presley ditty


Silverio’s guest, Freddie Motos, a former Shell executive who runs the Hoops4Hope2Heaven, a youth empowerment program, was also present. Motos was one of those responsible for Silverio’s comeback as a head coach in the 3rd Conference of the 1988 season after a 9-year hiatus. He glowingly spoke about his relationship with SIlverio, how he cheered for Toyota and idolized Robert Jaworski, and how he brought Cordero to Shell after Tanduay’s disbandment. 


Speaking of Cordero, he revealed that he never got to play for Silverio at Toyota, having been taken in by the team in 1982 when Ed Ocampo was already the head coach. Instead, he got to work with the groovy taskmaster in 1988 when they were both with Shell.


At exactly 7PM, with Cortez belting out his version of “Long and Winding Road” by the Beatles, a power outage occurred but this didn’t douse the enthusiasm of everyone. Cortez, with Cordero backing him up, finished the song while singing along with their teammates. Power was eventually restored after 5 minutes.

                                                                                                   Gil Cortez's renders "A Long and Winding Road"

With whisky, brandy, cognac and red wine all over, Rocha finally mustered enough guts to pick up the mic and do his version of “Doon Lang” by Nonoy Zuñiga and Fred Panopio’s classic, “Pitong Gatang” to the delight of everyone. Cordero proved to be quite a crooner, his cool, baritone voice bringing the house down while performing “Endless Love” and “Something Stupid” alongside Silverio’s resident singer / entertainer. Ompong Segura hit the notes right as he performed the Neil Diamond hit, “Sweet Caroline.”


Of course, there was the usual banter. Rocha’s recent interview on the online sports show, “An Eternity of Basketball” describing Fernandez as too “sosyal” for his comfort drew the biggest laughs. But everyone praised Rocha’s no-holds-barred storytelling on the show, something that only the original PBA’s “bad boy” could do.


Fernandez, who tried hard not to sing, capped off the night with his version of Florante’s “Handog” that brought goosebumps to everyone. He then invited everyone to join him on stage and everyone sang along – a fitting end to the revelry.

                                                                                                The Tamaraws belting out Florante's "Handog"


Silverio couldn’t help but feel elated and nostalgic seeing his former wards once more. He, Cortez and Cordero were the last to leave with the coach telling the two that “since we’re all not getting younger anymore, the more often we should have reunions.” He and Cortez confided to this writer their wish of having a Toyota-Crispa reunion gathering in the future for a good cause, fully acknowledging how big this event would be if it happens. Cortez, the prime mover of the two gatherings, hopes to reach out to his Crispa colleagues and work out something for a good cause. 


                                                           Sports Potpourri, with Coach Silverio, Gil Cortez, Ulysses Rodriguez and Shell executive Fred Motz

The second reunion was more private, with less pomp and frills and with no media to cover them except for this writer, but it also provided the opportunity for the players to share stories and anecdotes with one another. Everyone was hopeful that for the next gathering, those that were not around, particularly Jaworski and Francis Arnaiz, would be there. But for this one night, when everyone left with smiles in their respective faces, there was a picture of contentment and satisfaction. 

“Ok na, hindi na kami bitin!”

Monday, January 9, 2023

What's next for Manong Derrick Pumaren?

                                                                        (Photo courtesy of UAAP Media Bureau)

The cat’s out of the bag. Coach Derrick Pumaren, fondly called “Manong” by close associates, is not the coach of the La Salle Green Archers anymore, Sports Potpourri learned a few days prior to the New Year.


La Salle team officials met with Manong Derrick early afternoon of December 30, 2022 to reveal the news that his contract will not be extended anymore. There is an unconfirmed report though that he has been offered by La Salle officials with another position in the hierarchy, perhaps as coaching consultant, to provide continuity to the program he laid out in 2020. 


Pumaren accepted a 3-year contract to replace Gian Nazario prior to the start of Season 83. The COVID19 pandemic struck, forcing the cancellation of the tournament in 2020. He eventually coached the Archers in Season 84 when the team nearly made the finals, losing to the UP Fighting Maroons in a sudden-death game for the second finals seat. Season 85 though, was a different story as the former 2-time UAAP champion coach struggled with an assortment of injuries on his roster, falling to Adamson in a knockout game for the 4thsemifinals seat. 


A reliable source has also mentioned that Topex Robinson is now the frontrunner to succeed Pumaren as coach of the Archers. Robinson, whose contract with the PBA’s Phoenix Fuel Masters ended last December 31, 2022, was reported to be considering various options apart from the contract renewal offered by Phoenix management.


A heartbreaking Season 85


There’s no doubt Pumaren is considered one of the greatest local coaches ever. He has won at all levels – two championships with Sunkist in the PBA, two championships with La Salle in the UAAP, 9 championships with various teams in the PBL, one PBA D-League title, and a PBA Coach of the Year award in 1995. The first product from the Ron Jacobs coaching tree, Pumaren, in an exclusive interview with Sports Potpourri, explained the difficulties he had to go through for Season 85. “It’s unfortunate that we lost three key starters in the latter portion of the second round. There were a lot of winnable games that we ended up losing, but these are the breaks of the game.” 


Pumaren added that he’s “been coaching for nearly 40 years already and is not in the business to make excuses. As they say, players win games, coaches lose them.” A few games into the second round, the Archers lost Schonny Winston to a calf injury, and later, Mike Phillips experienced headaches and dizziness while Quiambao failed to play in La Salle’s last two games due to COVID19 health protocols. The Archers eventually lost to the Adamson Soaring Falcons, 80-76, and ended the eliminations with a 7-7 card.

                                                  (Photo courtesy of ABS-CBN News)


Where to?


At this point, Pumaren said that he intends to “take a rest during the holidays and explore various options after.” It’s hard to imagine a coach of Pumaren’s prowess and knowledge out of the coaching circles given his reputation, not just as a champion coach but as a program director.


Sports Potpourri looks at possible destinations where Pumaren may be headed.


1.      Retooling the UST Growling Tigers’ program


The Growling Tigers ended up with a 1-13 to end up in the cellar. They beat Adamson on opening night but yielded their next 13 games. New head coach Bal David was hired a few months prior to the season but the neophyte coach wasn’t given enough time to whip up a strong quintet. 


Prized forward Nic Cabañero is the future of this team as long as he remains with the team. There are reports that a couple of schools are recruiting Cabañero and UST would need a coach with a solid program to make him stay. Pumaren, who’s known to handle top forwards and wingmen like Alvin Patrimonio, Rudy Hatfield, Vergel Meneses, Mac Cardona and Kenneth Duremdes in the past, would have the opportunity to develop Cabañero to his full potential while maximizing the strength of 6’8 Adama Faye, the school’s foreign student athlete. This remains a big IF though as reports that the SMC Group under Alfrancis Chua is seriously considering providing support to his alma mater.


2.     Returning to his roots


Pumaren played for the 1978 UAAP champion team, the University of the East Red Warriors, alongside notable players like Rudy Distrito, Alex Tan, Wilton Roxas and Bing del Rosario. He also handled the coaching reins in Recto from 2014-17 before moving to Mendiola to handle the CEU Scorpions in the UCBL. 


Curiously, a Pumaren protégé, Jack Santiago, is now running the program at UE. Santiago’s familiarity with Pumaren’s system may be evidenced by UE’s twin wins against the Archers on Season 85. They may have lost Mythical 5 member, Luis Villegas, but the Warriors are abundant with promising talents led by the Paranada brothers, Kyle and Nicholas, Rey Remogat, CJ Payawal, Clint Escamis, Harvey Pagsanjan and Gani Stevens. If somehow, Pumaren can act as consultant to Santiago and provide a mid to long-term direction, then it won’t be long to see the Warriors return to the Final Four with the hope of snapping a 37-year old championship drought.


                                                       (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Star)

Different capacity with DLSU

If there’s one thing the Archers strongly believe in, it’s the value of continuity. Pumaren’s stint at Taft, while it didn’t produce titles, is valuable in the context of non-disruption. Whoever selected to replace him would find his inputs just as valuable, especially given the fact that La Salle was the only team in Season 85 to have beaten the 4 Final Four teams (ADMU, UP, NU, AdU). 


Simply put, Pumaren knows how to contend with the big boys and beat them as well. A new coach may find this difficult at the start, tangling against the likes of Tab Baldwin, Goldwin Monteverde, Jeff Napa, and Nash Racela. With Pumaren in the background, his experience and savvy may actually make things easier for the new head coach to jumpstart his program and put himself in the same league as Ateneo and UP right away.


4.      Taking over Olsen at Morayta


Olsen Racela recently resigned as head coach of the FEU Tamaraws after coaching the team for 5 seasons. He had a career .500 performance as coach, winning 35 of 70 games in the eliminations, while winning 2 of 6 in the playoffs. But Racela opted to step down with grace after failing to lead the Tamaraws to the Final Four for the first time since 2012.


FEU is the league’s most successful school with 20 championships, two titles ahead of UST and UE. The school has always been proud of its recruitment program, producing topnotch players who went on to become successful in the pro league. They continue to be blessed with a talented roster, but there are reports that at least 5 key players from their roster will be leaving. Whether they stay or not, a revamp of the program may be necessary to infuse fresh faces into the squad. Pumaren may end up having a direct hand in recruiting top players in the provinces and mold them to the kind of persons he wants them to be.


5.      Consider a foreign offer


In 2008, Pumaren worked as a coaching consultant at Hongkong and joined the team in the 2013 FIBA-Asia tournament held in Manila. Pumaren jokingly mentioned that “if Hongkong ends up upsetting Gilas, baka magulpi tayo sa Pilipinas.” Whether fortunate or otherwise for him, Gilas barely defeated Hongkong, 67-55, after trailing 33-29 at the half. Coach Chot Reyes was forced to give extended minutes to Marcus Douthit as he led the team with 13 points and 8 boards.


His HK stint proved that he was capable of spreading his gospel in other countries. Middle Eastern countries like the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman as well as Southeast Asian neighbors like Singapore, Brunei and even East Timor may find his expertise valuable to lift their nations’ respective basketball programs.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

PBA Needs to Change its Mindset

The PBA Board is made up of a flock of dinosaurs struggling to keep up with the times. Even more so, they're struggling to read the mindset of the Millennial and Generation Z players. They've also overrated the value of the league from the perspective of the young players who all grew up watching the NBA more than the PBA.

The PBA Board of Governors (photo c/o ABS-CBN Sports)

Millennial and Generation Z personalities like to travel and explore. They take calculated risks and set lofty ambitions for themselves. They can be irreverent and non-complicit to certain set of rules and regulations. They like to look at various options and won't hesitate to take the unexplored path.

The Ravena and GDL brothers, Ken Tuffin, etc. are examples of today's generation who won't subscribe to the norm. This is where the PBA is completely lost - all these threats of sanctioning players, etc. may not worry these young players that much. The PBA isn't the only league in the world where they can play. The decision-making of the Board manifests a backward mindset that may have worked in the 70's to the 90's but is hardly relevant today. It's not just an issue of supply and demand (more leagues to consider instead of only the PBA or MBA or PBL before), it's also a generational behavior that the Board simply couldn't (or wouldn't want to) understand. 

Juan and Javi Gomez di Liano (photo c/o ABS-CBN Sports)

Thirdy and Kiefer Ravena (photo c/o ABS-CBN Sports)

For these players, so what if you ban them? They'll play elsewhere. If the B-League doesn't want them anymore, then they'll consider other choices, then go back to the PBA. They'll probably say, "you want an apology letter with a request for re-enlistment...sure, we'll do that...since you need us also, we're sure you can't live up to the alleged 5-year ban and will promptly reinstate us when we apologize..."

Simply put, the PBA has nothing but an empty card in its hands. Sure, they can bluff, but these young players are just as good....they don't easily blink.

What the PBA can do is to learn to live with the times. Open the league globally, accommodate regional neighbors and let them play in the league without restrictions. In the PBA's case, they are still imposing a limit of five (5) Fil-foreigners in a roster - another totally backward way of thinking. How do we expect the Chinese, the Taiwanese, the Sokors, the Aussies, the Kiwis, etc. to play in the PBA when even slots for legitimate Fil-Fors are limited?

Tie-up with international leagues by having a common schedule, and then, on a vacant month, come up with an All-Asia championship where the top 2 teams per league would gather in one invitational tournament to determine which team is the best ball club in Asia.

Gilas vs. South Korea (photo c/o

Open the doors for foreign coaches to assume formal coaching duties in the PBA. The transfer of technology will be significant and improve the skills and talents of both the coaches and the players. No one can deny that guys like Dwight Ramos, Will Navarro, SJ Belangel, Geo Chiu, etc. want to play for Tab Baldwin because of his ability to improve their games significantly. Imagine six (6) Tab Baldwins or Ron Jacobs handling PBA teams and see the differences with how the game will be played from thereon? Imagine how our local coaches - Cone, Black, Chot, Yeng, etc. - try to adapt as quick as they can if only to make themselves competitive against these foreign mentors?

National Team Coach Tab Baldwin (photo c/o

Revisit the PBA Constitution and make the necessary revisions. If the VMV (Vision, Mission, Values) don't conform to the present needs, rework them. Since the Board thinks from the perspective of managers running a company, have them discern the fundamental problems plaguing the league - particularly the waning support from the fans. Is the business model still relevant? Is the PBA still the primary entertainment sports medium in the country?

Focus on the one reason why the league surged to its popularity peak back in the mid-80's to early 90's - parity. That was when one watches the games live or on television genuinely not knowing which team will win in the day's doubleheader. Since they joined the PBA, the two newest franchises - Blackwater and Terrafirma - have yet to crack the semifinal round and have found themselves toting a losing win-loss card every season. 

Unless the Board recognizes there's a problem, solutions will never be discussed. PBA Chairman Ricky Vargas has to find a way to convince himself, much more the Board, that their obsolete mindset cannot compete with the changing times in today's totally different landscape.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr. - Changing the Philippine Basketball Landscape

I wasn't a Danding fan when it came to his politics. He was Marcos' primary crony and pretty much ran the coconut industry in the country (another crony, Roberto Benedicto was the primary stakeholder of the sugar industry). I didn't vote for him in the 1992 presidential elections mainly because he and Imelda represented the Marcos bloc. He was also suspected to have a hand in Ninoy Aquino's assassination, albeit, never proven.

Photo c/o GMA Network News

But I will always be an admirer of ECJ for his contribution to PHL basketball. I never rooted for San Miguel Beer in the PBA, except on certain cases like the 1979 Finals (cheered for RTO against Toyota) or when they were underdogs in the 1984 season as Gold Eagle Beer. Those who know me well understand how closely I followed the NCC program dating back when it all started in 1980, the same year ECJ was appointed project director for basketball by Marcos. Yet, even if I love the national team, I didn't convert to becoming an SMB fan in 1986 when the nucleus of the team joined the franchise (then called Magnolia) in the 3rd Conference. 

Yet, that NCC team was the closest national team I've ever followed. From the time the team was being formed, won the 1981 Jones, Cup, won the 1981 SEAG gold, the 1982 Asian Youth, getting robbed in the 1983 ABC, winning the 1984 Asian Interclub, performing well in the 1985 World Interclub, winning the 1985 Jones Cup, winning the 1985 Reinforced Conference, and finally, the 1986 ABC championship - I was a fan.

Ambassador Cojuangco's single biggest contribution to PHL basketball wasn't his investing on the national team. It wasn't his putting up the PABL as a league that eventually replaced the MICAA. It wasn't bringing in coach Ron Jacobs and Fil-Americans and naturalized players like Ricardo Brown, Willie Pearson, Jeff Moore, Dennis Still and Chip Engelland to the country. All significant, but these were not his best offer to the cause.

Danding with the implementor of his basketball program, Coach Ron Jacobs

I feel that ECJ made us believe again that we can be a powerhouse basketball playing nation in the world. He laid down the groundwork, given the limited time he had to prove himself. He understood that there was a talent drain in the amateur ranks brought about by players turning pro. Since he needed to produce results right away, and knowing how long it will take to nurture the existing talent pool that the PHL had back then, he made a supreme revolutionary move of bringing in no less than eight (8) foreign talents from the United States, naturalize them by presidential decree during the Martial Law era, suit them up for the national team, and provide the fastest way to transfer technology. 

It wasn't an easy trek, despite the power that he possessed. He had to contend with another crony, Herminio Disini of the Herdis Group of Companies, who had his APCOR Financiers team dominating the MICAA in 1980 and 1981 and was generally considered as a godfather himself to the sport back then. Ultimately, Disini left the country for Austria after the Dewey Dee case and ECJ had the basketball world all for himself.

He retained his San Miguel basketball team in the PBA but it was apparent that he focused his resources more on the national team. After discarding the initial plan of filling the entire national team roster with naturalized players brought about by the lukewarm reception received by the team after winning the 1981 Jones Cup in splendid fashion, the next direction was to focus on key areas of weaknesses that the country perennially had. In 1982, the Philippine team won the Asian Youth title held at the Araneta Coliseum, demolishing title favorites and defending champion, China, 74-63, in front of more than 25,000 fans, including the then First Lady, Imelda Marcos, in attendance. It was a proud moment for Philippine basketball, and Cojuangco showed us vignettes of the potential of his basketball program.

The 1982 RP Youth team that won the Asian Youth title

There were still hitches that needed ironing out. Because of the pioneering move of hiring naturalized players (never heard or done before in this region), neighboring countries questioned our decision of fielding naturalized players, Moore and Still, in the 1983 ABC held in Hong Kong. After allowing Moore and Still to suit up in the elimination round where we won both games, they were disqualified and the two games were forfeited in favor of our opponents. 

Yet, Cojuangco plodded on. He put up the PABL in 1983, giving amateur players a venue to showcase their skills and talents. The greatest amateur basketball players of the 80's can trace back their roots to the PABL. in 1984, the national team won the Asian Interclub held in Ipoh, Malaysia, proving to everyone of the team's capability to win the ABC in Hong Kong had not for the ambush. In a phenomenal display of dominance, the Cement Makers won by a margin of 43.5 points per game, including two 20 point plus demolitions of the Chinese team that bannered the 7'4 Mu Tie Zhu. It was annihilation on payback time. 

Coach Ron Jacobs given the traditional victory lift

The national team also guested in the PBA starting in 1984 but experienced some rough sailing as well. There was perception of the referees favoring the PBA teams, particularly on borderline calls, when going up against the national team. The league also didn't find comfort in having a guest team, all amateur players at that, to win a professional championship. In the end, ECJ's team handily won the 1985 Reinforced Conference in the most lopsided Finals series in league history against the Manila Beer Brewmasters.

Danding's NCC team winning the 1985 Reinforced Conference

Apart from the PBA title, 1985 was a very good year for ECJ as his team played extremely well in the World Interclub held in Gerona, Spain. While they won only once in 4 games, they had close games against the US and Brazilian teams before demolishing the Banco di Roma team of Italy, 98-79. They then won the Jones Cup after a few months, stopping the US Golden Eagles team made up of 3 future NBA pros and mentored by legendary collegiate coach, Gene Keady of Purdue, in overtime, 108-100. All these would have meant nothing though if they didn't win the ABC, a feat they accomplished on January, 1986 at Kuala Lumpur, sweeping all their rivals for the top spot.

Danding with the core of the 1986 national basketball team

When Cojuangco came back from exile after EDSA 1 and regained control of San Miguel Corporation, it didn't take long for him to bring the Beermen back to its dominant ways. By the 2nd Conference of the 1999 season, they were already winning championships on a regular basis, 16 of the last 54. With the conglomerate now being run by Ramon Ang, Cojuangco took a backseat and opted to steer clear from the limelight until he became the chief benefactor of the Dela Salle Green Archers basketball team.

Danding as DLSU godfather (Photo c/o Tiebreaker Times)

There's no doubt that Danding Cojuangco was a winner. He seemed to possess the golden hand - whatever he touches always turned to gold. He may have also been successful in his other sports interests like horse racing, vintage cars, equestrian, golf and boxing but it was in basketball where he truly made his mark as a sportsman and leader. He has lived a full life and Philippine basketball will forever be grateful to him. 

May he rest in peace...

Friday, June 12, 2020

Marcial and Baldwin: A Tale of Two Perspectives

The recent controversy that stemmed from Gilas project director Tab Baldwin's statement on the PBA's quality of officiating and how the league is being run has rankled PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial. The Commissioner has threatened to impose sanctions on the assistant head coach of the Talk 'N Text KaTropa for coming up with such statements that are detrimental to the league. 

Photos courtesy of ABS-CBN Sports

Initial Thoughts

1) I felt Marcial could have taken this remark constructively and move forward. It's an opinion coming from an international-caliber coach who has his own observations. While he may have criticized the league, it wasn't derogatory but more like an avenue for improvement.

2) I don't understand what Marcial was referring to when he said Baldwin could've gone to Ricky Vargas or Bong Ravena or Gabby Cui to air his concerns, while he could have done the same thing himself - going to Vargas to discuss what Baldwin said. It's more prudent on his part as Commissioner instead of threatening him with a penalty through media.

Manotoc vs. Jacobs

In the 1984 2nd All Filipino Conference, then Deputy Commissioner Tommy Manotoc had a similar issue against American coach Ron Jacobs but knew how to handle him. When Jacobs acted in protest over the bad officiating in their 1984 Finals KO game against Beer Hausen which NCC lost, relegating them to a 3rd place battle vs. Tanduay, Jacobs hardly gave playing time to naturalized players Still, Moore and Engelland and got clobbered by the Esquires in the first two games by an average of 23 points, including a game that saw Denis Abbatuan score 51 points. Prior to Game 3, Manotoc spoke with Jacobs and warned him of a penalty, if he kept this up. In Game 3, Jacobs fielded his best players, with Engelland scoring 60 points, that resulted to NCC routing Tanduay, 148-110. No penalties given, no unnecessary threats, and you can even say Ron committed the "graver sin." But Manotoc was a secured man and knew how to handle such egos. In the end, both men were able to prove their respective points - Manotoc being a firm but fair Deputy Commissioner while Jacobs displaying his wisdom by winning the 1986 ABC title. 

Suffice to add that Jacobs was a far more difficult "nut to crack" because his boss was Danding Cojuangco. I really don't care about the opinion of the other personalities (Alfrancis Chua, Yeng Guiao, Louie Alas) because they can agree or dissent, a personal opinion given, and that's fine by me. I'm more focused on Marcial since he's the Commissioner and whatever he says is representative of the league. Why didn't Marcial just summon Baldwin in his office quietly to discuss his concerns? Why didn't he just go to Ricky Vargas and handle things more professionally? Even more, why did Marcial not get involved and give penalties to Wells, Tubid, Nabong and Santos of SMB in a melee in front of fans during practice and merely allowed SMB management to impose the said penalties?

Did Marcial speak out because Alfrancis Chua also has spoken out against Baldwin? That goes without saying. For me though, whether Baldwin was right or wrong doesn't matter - he expressed an opinion. Whether that was derogatory, ill-intended, and malicious is something that can only be judged when Marcial hears his side. At this point, Marcial has also expressed his opinion on what to do with Baldwin - the problem is that he's the Commissioner and now, he's obligated to follow through what he said. Marcial could have merely summoned him sans fanfare, and then release a statement when an official verdict is given. If it means a fine or a suspension, so be it. But you don't express an opinion on media without hearing the side of the other person. It's just unbecoming from a league Commissioner, especially since he contradicted himself, doing exactly the same thing that he's accusing Tab of.

Root Cause

The source of the problem is that the personalities involved are coming from different perspectives. And while I see the logic from both sides, it's difficult to reconcile both as their objectives are far apart from each other.

Marcial is looking at it from the angle of entertainment and business. He wants the PBA to be a lucrative endeavor to ensure that club participation remains active and that the PBA remains a viable vehicle among present and future franchises as a marketing tool. To do so, you would need to have fans cheering for the local talents and their playing time not taken away by the imports, which is really logical because the lifeblood of the PBA is anchored on two factors: the franchises and the fans. Not long-term but not exactly myopic. You won't find in the PBA Constitution anything that involves participation in the national team or ensuring continuous basketball development in the country.

On the other hand, Tab's viewpoint is player development. He wants the PHL to be a basketball great internationally. He feels that the PBA, being the top basketball league in the country, has become a detriment towards progress as its style of play is fundamentally flawed for the international game. He feels that the PBA should play a major role in the national basketball landscape as they do have the best players in the league. And that if the PBA changes this approach, it can be a springboard towards greater international success, parallel to the objectives of the SBP.

Photo c/o Dugout Philippines

The thing is, with both groups' objectives not parallel with each other, there will never ever be a meeting of minds. All we'll have are compromises which has what happened for the past 30 years and it has never worked. One party just can't give way to the other without violating the very objectives of their respective groups. 

The PBA has allowed its players to suit up for the national team since "open basketball" came about in 1990. So far, no national team has replicated the success of the last national team that won the FIBA-Asia tournament (then called the Asian Basketball Confederation) - the 1986 team of Jacobs. Back then, we kept on saying we're the best in basketball in this region but the pro league's existence has prevented us to prove this to our rivals. Yet, our best finish was in 2013 when we won a silver medal at home and two years after in Changsha, as well as a silver medal placing as well in the 1990 Beijing Asian Games. That only proves that we're not Asia's best anymore.

Curiously, the last team that won the FIBA-Asia title did not have access to the players in the pros. They were culled from a bunch of collegiate players and reinforced by two naturalized players. Their secret was their ability to stay together as a unit for almost 5 years, expose themselves in the international competitions, while ensuring they kept in shape by participating as a guest team in the PBA. 

 The victorious 1986 national basketball team in the ABC
Gilas 1.0 under Coach Rajko Toroman

Where To?

Because of the fundamental differences of the PBA and the SBP, the only resolution really is to rely less on the PBA, as what Baldwin has previously declared. It has been done before - first, by Cojuangco's program that started as early as 1980 when he was project director for the sport, and second, in 2009 when Gilas 1.0 was put up by PBA former Commissioner and former SBP Project Director Noli Eala. 

And the timing is ideal - it's ripe for the picking. With up and coming talents like Kai Sotto, AJ Edu, Dalph Panopio, Thirdy Ravena, Kobe Paras, Juan Gomez De Liano, Dwight Ramos, CJ Cansino, Dave Ildefonso, Rhenz Abando, among the top collegiate players today, the pool is deep enough to come up with a young, yet formidable, national team for the future. Add Jordan Clarkson in the mix and you have a potent national lineup that has the chance to beat any national team that the PBA can form in the future. 

Fans would recall how the 1985 national team beat a PBA All-Star team reinforced by Francois Wise in 1985 in a benefit game for Mike Bilbao, who suffered a near fatal car accident along Alabang-Zapote Road in Muntinlupa. Similarly, Gilas 1.0 overpowered the Powerade national team of Guiao that played in Tianjin, China for the 2009 FIBA-Asia tourney. This scenario isn't unlikely again. It's not a matter of putting up a basketball team with the best players, but putting up the best basketball team. NCC and GIlas 1.0 proved that before. It can be replicated.

 The 1985 Reinforced Conference champions

Photo courtesy of GMA Network

Stumbling Block

Of course, the PBA may end up nipping all these in the bud. Note that a recent rule by the league threatening to ban eligible players who won't join the draft is actually counter to any future plans of the SBP. If an amateur player is already eligible to join the draft but won't because he has to play for Gilas or the 3x3, it takes away his right to earn a living in the future once he declares himself ready for the pros. The SBP would now find itself in a tight situation where young players, for fear of being banned by the PBA, would eventually leave the national pool. I find it appalling that the country's blueprint to international basketball success is not anymore being blocked by the FIBA but by the PBA itself.

This would force the hand of the SBP now to cough up a little more than it should when giving allowances to the young players to stay in the amateur ranks. And given the timeline of Baldwin where 2023 would mean qualifying in the second round and 2027 for the medal rounds in the World Cup, the roadmap is long-term and would be very costly.

Again, this is because it runs counter to the PBA's own goals. Preventing top amateur players from joining the league would mean only the second-tier talents ending up in the draft. You can only imagine how the franchises are salivating for the opportunity to have the likes of Paras, Ravena, De Liano, Ramos, etc. in their rosters.

Future national team mainstays Kobe Paras and Thirdy Ravena

Win-Win Situation

There's a win-win proposition here, although I don't know if the PBA is amenable to such. If they don't want to remove the threat of the ban, then at least, exempt those players who were selected as part of the national pool (including 3x3). If a player wants to stay in the pool until 2027, then so be it. Threatening to ban players not joining the PBA when they're eligible is a draconian measure, especially considering the PBA has no relationship with any amateur player, and hence, may be questioned in court as a form of curtailment of human rights.

Second, allow the national team to play in PBA conferences to keep them competitive and in game shape. Adjust to the FIBA rules when the national team is participating, if only to ensure that the team won't have to adjust every single time. Make the calls fair and objective without partiality to any PBA team.

Third, when the national team plays in the PBA, make sure this happens on import-laced conferences. There's nothing more embarrassing than an all local PBA ballclub losing to an all-amateur team just like what happened twice in the past. Moreso, if they end up winning a PBA title, not unlike what NCC did in the 1985 Reinforced Conference when it  swept and annihilated  the Manila Beer Brewmasters in what is regarded as the most lopsided Finals ever, losing by an average of 25.5 per game.

In return, imagine the benefits the PBA will receive once those in the pool finally opt to turn pro. Not only will they be household names already, their talent stock would have risen considerably that they would be dominating the league in the next 5 years or so. Again, this is not without precedent. When the NCC program folded up, the PBA benefited when Hector Calma, Samboy Lim, Allan Caidic, Yves Dignadice, Pido Jarencio, Elmer Reyes, Franz Pumaren, etc. joined the league in 1986 and 1987. There was a resurgence in the interest in the pro league brought about by these young men. Similarly, in the 2011 draft, the Gilas 1.0 players also came in, ushering another new generation of players. Guys like Marcio Lassiter, JVee Casio, Chris Lutz, Mark Barroca, and Chris Tiu came aboard and the league once more ended up as the primary beneficiary. 

Similarly, Marcial and company would not have to worry about schedule disruption, player adjustment, long seasons for players, etc., anymore. The PBA can go on with what they feel is best for them - 3 conferences, preferred number of imports, among others. 

In the end, this won't just be a compromise, but a win-win deal for both as they fulfill their respective organization's mission statements.