By TITO S. TALAO
Manila, Philippines – Thunder rumbled amid the sudden afternoon downpour yesterday outside the PBA office in Libis, Quezon City, contrasting with the bright and sunny atmosphere inside the conference room where team representatives gathered for their monthly meeting.
Even the expected clash over the maximum number of players a ballclub may protect when the PBA’s three new teams – Kia Motors, Blackwater Sports and NLEX – start filling up their rosters via an expansion draft in July produced not even a faint howl.
Instead, pre-board meeting talks centered mostly on the week’s shocking news: the firing of Alaska Aces coach Luigi Trillo.
As tactfully as he could, Alaska governor Dickie Bachmann, turning red at times, fended off endless questions on why and how, deferring instead to the prepared statement from team owner Wilfred Steven Uytengsu which the Aces circulated a few days ago.
A source, whose account Bachmann refused to comment on, said Uytengsu himself broke the news to Luigi’s father, retired longtime Alaska governor Joaqui Trillo, credited as part of the triumvirate, along with former coach Tim Cone, responsible for all but one of the Aces’ 14 PBA championships.
Asked how the elder Trillo took it, Bachmann shrugged and shook his head.
Bachmann, likewise, wouldn’t confirm or deny reports that virtually the entire Aces team had risen against Trillo, whose three-game sweep of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in the Commissioner’s Cup Finals last season became the highlight of his young pro career and earned him Coach of the Year honors from the PBA Press Corps.
The board meeting, meanwhile, went through without a hitch, according to PBA chairman Ramon Segismundo of the Meralco Bolts.
“It was the smoothest meeting we’ve ever had,” said Segismundo.
PBA commissioner Chito Salud, on the other hand, moved from one meeting to another – that with the board and with San Mig Super Coffee forward Marc Pingris.
The Mixers star was ejected in the second quarter of their game against the Meralco Bolts last Wednesday after taking a swing at sophomore forward James Sena following a jarring screen-off collision where Pingris took an elbow at his bruised rib cage.
He was summoned to appear before the PBA commissioner.
“The PBA affirmed the flagrant foul penalty 2 call on Pingris and he is fined P40,000,” said Salud, “Upon review, we saw that he threw a punch that landed at the lower backside of Sena.”
It was the second such infraction for Pingris, who was fined P20,000 following a scuffle with Globalport’s Kelly Nabong early in the season.
Salud said that although the punch “barely grazed” Sena, “still a punch was thrown and is classified as an F2 foul which means automatic ejection.”
While the banishment is outright in such fouls, Salud clarified, a suspension is not.
“We have to take a look at the impact and the damage that has been done,” said Salud. “The punch was thrown at the heat of the moment.”
While acknowledging that Pingris may have been “provoked by the hard pick” set by Sena, Salud nonetheless ruled that Sena’s action was “legal.”
Pingris, according to Salud, “apologized profusely” after being reminded that he now belongs in a “rarefied field” and hence has to act accordingly.
June 7, meantime, is the extension deadline set by the PBA for NLEX to decide whether it was pushing through with its plan to join the league or not.
Recent reports indicated NLEX has been having second thoughts after concessions it sought, including bringing in direct hire players, were denied by the PBA board.
“I understand where they’re coming from, being champions in the D-League, but I don’t foresee anymore changes in the concessions before the (40th season) season begins,” said Salud. “We’re ready to go with three or two new teams.”
Present during the board meeting were PBA chairman Ramon Segismundo, vice chairman Patrick Gregorio of Talk ‘N Text, treasurer Robert Non of San Miguel Beer, Rene Pardo of San Mig Coffee, Atty. Mert Mondragon of Rain or Shine, Manny Alvarez of Barako Bull, Erick Arejola of Globalport and incoming Barangay Ginebra San Miguel representative Alfrancis Chua.