CONFUSION has reigned at the San Miguel Corp. camp since word came around that former SMC sports director Noli Eala was back in action in the wheeling and dealing of the PBA offseason.
Eala, you see, used to run the show for the three SMC-owned teams in the PBA with basketball operations head Robert Non and, for all the controversies he got involved in, is still credited with the master stroke of luring grand slam coach Tim Cone to the San Mig camp.
That all changed late in the 2012 season when a falling-out with then Ginebra coach Alfrancis Chua led to Chua's resignation and saw Eala being moved to the company's infrastructure division. Chua has since stayed on, first as Ginebra manager and now the team's representative to the PBA board.
Eala laid low for a long time - his once busy Twitter account falling silent - until recently when word started to filter out that the former PBA commissioner was involved again, in what capacity we don't know, in negotiations involving players and coaches.
First was an informal approach to a Rain or Shine official regarding Paul Lee, whose contract with the Elasto Painters is expiring at the end of the month. No less than team co-owner Raymund Yu confirmed that Eala inquired about the rising star out of University of the East.
Next was an admission by new San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria that Eala was the one who got in touch with him to set up a meeting with SMC big boss Ramon S. Ang.
Austria, afterall, was the former coach of San Miguel Beer in the Asean Basketball League (ABL) which Eala used to run. The former Adamson coach also lost his job as an assistant coach at PBA ballclub after Eala stepped down as SMC sports director.
"Si Mr. Eala nga ang lumapit sa akin. Sa utos rin ni RSA. Siya (Eala) nag-schedule ng meeting namin with RSA," Austria told Spin.ph.
Puzzled, we decided to go straight to Ang hoping to get an answer from the SMC top honcho, who is known to answer questions of reporters from the business beat through text messaging.
His answer was short but firm.
"He's not involved in basketball," came Ang's reply.
Ang never answered our follow-up questions, but that should be enough guarantee for now that Eala is not assuming his old position or any other official post in San Miguel's basketball organization anytime soon.
But what if Eala is working as a personal emissary of Ang and carrying out 'missions' on the instructions of the big boss himself?
Well, that's a question only Mr. Ang can answer.