AFTER seeing National University turn from a minnow to a UAAP champion under the watch of the Sys, there was no doubt in the mind longtime basketball patron Dioceldo Sy that the family which owns the popular SM chain of malls can replicate the success in the PBA.
“Pag pumasok sila sa PBA, I believe kaya nilang bumuo ng contender team of the future. Pwedeng hindi sa first year, pero in three to four years… they can,” said Sy, himself a partner of the SM group of companies as he backed the NU Lady Bulldogs women's basketball team that won its first UAAP championship via sweep.
“May sistema kasi sila Mr. Sy on how to achieve, ganyan din kasi ang business philosophy nila,” said the Ever Bilena Cosmetics president.
Hans Sy, who is chairman of NU and head of SM Prime Holdings, admitted the thought of putting up a team in the PBA is 'enticing' but remained non-committal, saying it is still being studied.
“Wala pa naman pero it’s still a work in progress. Nag iisip pa kami. Hindi pa namin masabi,” he said.
Although he remains 'open' to the idea, Sy said one thing he learned from NU's title run in the UAAP is that basketball can take up so much of his time.
“One thing I have to admit to you, 'yung championship namin sa UAAP last time, during our campaign, ang daming oras ko ang nawala,” he said. “Yesterday (in Game Three), hindi ako nakapag-meeting kasi binantayan ko ang game namin kaya ngayon naghahabol ako.
“Sa ngayon kasi kung papasok kami ng PBA, baka mas mahirapan ako. Kasi kami sa lahat ng bagay na hinahawakan namin, may personal hands-on approach kami. Mino-monitor ko talaga yun," he added.
And he is ready to make the same commitment to a PBA team in the future?
“I am not closing the doors. Yun lang yun,” he said. “Basta open lang kami pero I cannot commit to anything (about it) now,” Sy added.
For his part, legendary PBA coach and former deputy commissioner Tommy Manotoc has no doubts on the SM group's capacity to put up a team.
But does SM need an advertising vehicle like the PBA, he asked.
“If they really want to, they can. But the question here is, are they willing to spend a big amount of money like the MVP group and San Miguel Corporation?” said Manotoc.
“Pero I am sure alam ng SM na, 'Bakit kami papasok sa PBA kung malakas naman ang malls namin? Will it be worth it? Unless they want to join the league of the who’s who in Philippine business like Smart and San Miguel,” he added.
Manotoc, who screened and eventually welcomed new teams like Shell, Alaska, Manila Beer and Anejo during his time with the league, said he believes SM is more of a retailer and doubts if it has a product or service that can benefit from the media mileage that the PBA can bring.
One brand which the Sys can promote in the PBA is Banco de Oro, Manotoc, but he also isn't sure if the PBA is the right promotional vehicle for a bank.
“Hindi mo kasi sila pwedeng itulad sa NLEX na pumasok sa PBA kahit hindi na kailangan advertisement, kasi NLEX is just one of the companies under the Metro Pacific Investments (conglomerate) where andun ang iba nilang service-oriented companies like Makati Med, etcetera,” he said.
“Ang SM, they are a retailer, they have no produce that will need advertising,” said Manotoc.
Here's the full interview with Hans Sy: