TOKYO – Borrowing a line from his late father, PBA commissioner Chito Narvasa vowed Wednesday to “put order in the court” even as he issued his first directive since coming into office a few weeks ago, naming longtime league operations chief Rickie Santos to the post of deputy commissioner.
“His [Santos’] title right now is basketball operations chief. But he will function as my assistant, basically my deputy. So why not give him the recognition?” said Narvasa yesterday at the close of the PBA board of governors planning session here.
Narvasa and Santos were the last two candidates left when the PBA went on an extensive search for the successor of former commissioner Chito Salud, who announced his retirement after five years. Salud was later prevailed upon to stay on as league CEO while Narvasa got the nod by unanimous vote.
The PBA’s ninth commissioner said he’ll “take the cue” from his namesake, revered former Supreme Court Chief Justice Andres Narvasa, and dispense a brand of basketball justice that is “fair but very firm.” He then cautioned repeat offenders and transgressors.
“This is one instance na talo ko ang tatay ko,” he said. “I can be judge, jury and executioner pag meron kang violation at kailangan kang itapon. But I hope we don’t get to that, and I don’t foresee that coming.”
He spoke in a reconciliatory tone and made clear that consultation with team officials, coaches, players, fans and the media will be the driving force of his commissionership.
“Pag-uusapan natin lahat and then we implement. Kung me reklamo pa, then we adjust,” Narvasa said. You’ll see the effort on my part. If it’s lacking, pag me inconsistencies, let me know. Tutulungan ko kayo, tulungan nyo rin ako.”
He, however, left no doubt as to his impartiality and decisiveness.
Contemporaries with Yeng Guiao of Rain or Shine, Norman Black of Meralco and Jong Uichico of Talk ‘N Text, Narvasa, who has coached Shell and Purefoods, said he will be friendly with them off the court, but not during games.
“Lahat sila kaibigan ko, pati sina Alfrancis Chua (team manager and governor of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel). But they know that if I have to do it, that I’ll do it; I’ll spare no one,” he said.
Asked how he intends to deal with the volatile Guiao, Narvasa said he has had initial talks with the ROS mentor, whom he succeeded as president of the Basketball Coaches Association of the Philippines (BCAP) years back.
“Sabi niya, ‘do what you have to do, and I’ll do what I have to do; asahan mo tutulungan kita,’” Narvasa quoted Guiao as saying. “Kaibigan ko si Yeng. Pero he’s a pro at pagdating sa basketball, walang kaibigan diyan. That’s how you deal with him.”
So will the PBA now see a considerable decline in Guiao’s record yearly fines?
“Alam mo, mas kaibigan ko si Yeng kesa kaibigan niya si Chito Salud. Aba e sasama ang loob ko pag lumiit ang contribution nya sa liga,” Narvasa said, drawing laughter all around. “Kailangan mas malaki ang fines niya.”
Seen furiously taking down notes during games in the Governors’ Cup from where he sat at the commissioner’s table, Narvasa said he was shocked at the temperament of the coaches even as early as the first quarter.
“Kako, ‘ano ba ‘to? First five minutes pa lang, panay na complain ng mga coaches,” he said. “Pag di tumawag ang referees, gallt ang coaches. Pag tumawag naman, galit pa rin sila. Ang consistent lang throughout the game e yung reklamo.”
Narvasa’s plan is to simplify the interpretation of the rules on the part of the referees, taking away much of their discretionary powers and asking them to call it as they see it.
“Wala ng mag-iisip kong manipis o makapal yung contact. Basta me foul, tawag agad,” he said. “Puro hawakan kasi ngayon e, pati sa pick ‘n roll. Tapos di tinatawagan kaya nagkakagulo.”
Even as he moves to do away with reaching in and holding contacts that disrupt the flow and spark second-motion fouls, Narvasa says there is no intention to sanitize the games.
“Same physicality but less wrestling,” he said. “Nong time namin, maraming enforcers, banggaan din ng banggaan, pero di naman ganito na walang tigil ang hawakan. Some contacts will be allowed but we’ll also put in place preventive measures para di mag-escalate into fights.”
Won’t this slow the game down?
“Sa umpisa siguro as coaches and players adjust,” he said. “But once they get used to it, there will be less calls and less complaints at bibilis na rin ang game.”
Does he need a honeymoon period from both the coaches and the critical media?
“Hindi na. I don’t believe in that. Game na agad,” Narvasa said. “Paratingin nyo agad sa’kin kung ano reklamo ng mga teams at mga fans para magawan natin ng solusyon. My client has to be satisfied, not me. If they’re not satisfied, then there’s still something wrong with what we’re doing. The good will take care of itself. Paano naman yung bad? That’s why I need those feedbacks.”
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NOTES: PBA commissioner Narvasa says he has never been ejected during a game when he was still coaching although he was once whistled for a technical but the decision was eventually overturned by then PBA commissioner Jun Bernardino for lack of merit…Narvasa met with Japanese basketball officials here to discuss a future exchange of teams between the two countries and the possibility of hiring more players from Japan as Asian imports in the PBA…The refs will have their first workout on Aug. 17 at the JCSGO gym in Cubao while Narvasa begins his round of team practice right after the Aug. 23 draft…The trade proposal involving Kia’s No. 2 overall pick in the draft faces scrutiny from the Office of the Commissioner…Narvasa hopes to fill the post of technical director, vacant after the untimely passing of ex-UP player Ramil Cruz, from the current pool of PBA refs… A longtime business partner of Narvasa, a fellow banker named Pacita Dobles, will be his executive assistant.