Last Saturday what has been talked about only privately among aficionados of local basketball was discussed publicly. DZMM’s Fastbreak talk show host Freddie Webb asked his guests – ABS CBN Hardball host Bill Velasco, NCAA basketball annotator Andre Felix, and Mig Bustus – if Guilas Pilipinas has a problem in the formation of a national team to be fielded in tournaments that serve as the qualifying rounds for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Andre admitted there was a problem, citing the rivalry between business empires that “own” players, in reference to the different teams that belong to competing conglomerates. As the coach of the national team is under contract with one empire, the rival empire is hesitant to allow its players to play under him. Why the hesitance, Andre did not elaborate.
Bill Velasco made reference to the highest official of the nation’s basketball program being an owner of several PBA teams. I inferred he was suggesting that the official would have certain biases in the selection of the team. He cited the selection of the players of the USA Olympic team. It is the USA Olympic Committee that chooses the players, the National Basketball Association having no say at all.
Freddie, a member of the 1972 Olympic basketball team said that during his time, it was the Philippine Amateur Athletic Federation that selected the coach and nominated the players who will try out for the Olympic team. Freddie said that MVP has vested interest in the national team. How that is manifested in the formation of the national team Freddie did not explain.
But the overall impression Freddie and his guests gave was that there is too much control of the Philippine basketball by one man. I fully agree.
Philippine basketball has come full circle. The PBA was formed because the men behind the commercial league, the Manila industrial and Commercial Athletic Association, strongly felt that a triumvirate, all associated with one school, controlled basketball in the Philippines. A professional league was formed so that the commercial league would be freed from the shackles of that triumvirate. Now the PBA itself has fallen under the strong influence of one man.