by Tito S. Talao
And neither does PBA commissioner Chito Salud.
Deflecting credit away, Non, basketball operations chief of San Miguel Corporation and board representative of Barangay Ginebra, paid tribute to Salud during a luncheon meeting at the start of the three-day PBA Board planning session at Westin Hotel and Resort here.
“Lahat naman ng policies at programs na napag-kayarian ng board, na-implement at naka-carryout lahat, and that led to our success this season,” said Non. “But even in companies, policy-making lang ang board. Ang credit ng success talaga e more on the implementor or the chief operating officer. And in the case of the PBA, it’s the commissioner.”
While he now returns to his regular job of overseeing the three SMC teams, especially Barangay Ginebra, which is poised to make 7-footer Greg Slaughter the No. 1 pick overall in the PBA Draft on Nov. 3, Non said he will be around to help incoming chairman Ramon Segismundo of the Meralco Bolts in whatever capacity he will be needed.
“Siempre naka-alalay tayo kay chairman Mon para tuloy-tuloy ang success ng liga,” said Non. “Maganda kung ma-sustain yung achievements, at mas maganda kung malampasan pa. After all, we have to work together as a team, the commissioner and the board, para maituloy lahat ang mga plano at programa.”
A PBA insider confirmed that the league earned more than P200 million this season, surpassing by more than 100 percent the P100 million grossed during the term of Atty. Mert Mondragon, board representative of Rain or Shine.
Salud, eldest son of the late PBA commissioner Rudy Salud, promptly returned the favor.
“Let me point this out. When I first came on as commissioner, I made it very clear that I was going to ride on the shoulders of giants,” Salud said. “I was going to rely on the wisdom of those people who have been in basketball for a long time. I was a newcomer, I had no experience, no background in basketball, and I really had to rely on the wisdom and experience of our board of governors and, of course, the team owners.”
Expounding on the sentiment of Non that the “PBA is back in the stream of consciousness of our fans,” Salud brushed aside the perception that league is slowly becoming a “niche market.”
“Para bang tayo-tayo na lang ang nanonood ng PBA,” he said. “Not true anymore. Our TV ratings, our gate receipts and our gate attendance would show the opposite. In fact, it’s during chairman Non’s term that the highest ever recorded attendance under a single roof was recorded.”
That was in Game 3 the Commissioner’s Cup Finals between Alaska and Barangay Ginebra when a huge crowd numbering 23,436 set a new all-time gate attendance record.
“I don’t know if we will ever see that broken, but I hope we do,” Salud said. “Pero baka mahirapan tayo ron.”
Asked if there would be a need to temper expectations in terms of matching this past season’s success, Salud went into overdrive.
“We hope to sustain our momentum; we hope to maintain the so-called resurgence of Philippine basketball, especially after Gilas Pilipinas won the silver medal in FIBA Asia with our PBA players,” he said. “Clearly basketball is back and we hope to keep it going.”
Salud is set to meet with national coach Chot Reyes after All-Saints Day to discuss the time-table for the Gilas squad’s participation in the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain in August next year.
This early, however, Salud voiced apprehension over the possibility of squeezing further an already compressed 39th PBA season schedule to accommodate another national team for the Asian Games in Incheon, Korea in September next year.
“We’re in the middle of our season. The PBA has already bent over backwards in reformatting, rescheduling, interrupting its tournaments for the FIBA Asia tournament. And now that we’re back on our compressed schedule, kailangan pa ba naman ang PBA don? Baka puwedeng hindi na.”