A POWERHOUSE list of candidates led by legends Robert Jaworski and Mon Fernandez has been brought up after the PBA board accepted 'with a heavy heart' the resignation of Commissioner Chito Salud.
A source told Spin.ph that the names of Fernandez and Jaworski were casually mentioned by team representatives when they gathered in a special board meeting on Sunday, shortly before Salud made the announcement that he's stepping down at the end of the league's 40th season.
Jaworski and Fernandez, former teammates turned rivals during the league's glory years, should be popular choices for one of the most high-profile positions in Philippine sports.
Known for his leadership and toughness, Jaworski is one of the most iconic names in Philippine basketball after a long career that saw him turn Ginebra into the most popular team in the league. He also parlayed his popularity into a seat in the Philippine Senate in the nineties.
Fernandez, a four-time league MVP, was the commissioner during the rise of the now defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA).
“After Commissioner Salud showed steadfastness in his decision to resign, some members of the board already came up with a list of possible candidates,” said the source who was at the board meeting but asked not to be named.
PBA chairman Patrick Gregorio bared the board will convene on February 26 to set the criteria for the selection process. The board will name the incoming commissioner before the end of the Commissioner's Cup, he added.
“Itong prosesong ito ay mangyayari nang hindi lalagpas ng end ng second conference, dahil ang gusto namin sa PBA ay mayroon na tayong bagong commissioner pagkatapos ng second conference para mayroon silang sapat na oras para mag turn over ni Commissioner Salud,” said Gregorio.
Aside from Jaworski and Fernandez, other names mentioned were former PBA player turned UAAP commissioner Chito Loyzaga as well as former PBA governors Lito Alvarez (Air 21), Buddy Encarnado (Sta. Lucia) and JB Baylon (Powerade), sources said.
The name of BCAP president Chito Narvasa also cropped up, the source added.
UAAP head of referee Romy Guevarra believes Loyzaga, who is also a former commissioner of the Philippine Sports Commission, believes the former Ginebra star forward is more than capable to succeed Salud.
“I think bagay si Chito dyan. Although bata pa siya, maayos din naman niyang napaktabo ang UAAP. Siguro with some guidance from those who have been there, like Salud, pwede siguro,” said Guevarra, who was also a former PBA head of referees.
Alvarez and Encarnado are both familiar with the running of the PBA, having served in the board for decades. Baylon is a known business and political tactician who has deep links with some of the biggest multinational companies in the country.
Baylon, who was present at the PBA press room when Salud announced his resignation, expressed hesitation over his possible nomination.
“Bakit ako?” he said with a smile.
Meanwhile, some members of the board expect a wide-open race for the commissionership as they intend to weigh all matters before naming the next top official of the PBA.
“Wala pa 'yan. May mga names na nabanggit pero pantay-pantay pa 'yan (sa nomination and selection). Wala pang nag-i-stand-out kasi dadaan sa proseso 'yan eh,” said the PBA board member who requested anonymity.
This early, Salud has challenged his successor to stand tough.
“It’s a very tedious job. You have to be ready to work 24/7 (24 hours, 7 days a week), because there are a lot of matters that happen in the league not just during the game,” said Salud.
“Dapat on your toes ka lagi dyan, it’s really a very draining job. So you have to be mentally, physically and spiritually prepared when you come in,” he added.
More importantly, Salud revealed the most challenging task for a PBA commissioner.
“You have to balance the interest of all the twelve members. You have to earn their trust and confidence, you have to perform and show results, and you have to make sure that the players understand their responsibility to the fans,” he added.
Asked what was the biggest challenge he faced and successfully hurdled at the helm of the league, Salud bared it is rebuilding the credibility of the league as one of the major players in the sports and entertainment industry.
“Maybe I am proud to say that I was able to lead this league to dispel all doubts that the PBA can compete with all forms of entertainment out there,” he said.
And what about the criticism?
“It’s part of the job. So my advice to the next commissioner is to be steadfast and forthright,” Salud said.