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Phoenix: ‘No change’

Phoenix Petroleum, which bought the Barako Bull franchise, yesterday said it would retain the same team and coaches for the PBA Commissioner’s Cup that starts Feb.10.

Raymond Zorrilla, the company’s vice president for corporate affairs, said there is no plan to change the composition of the team and the coaching staff.

“Why rock the boat? No, we’re not tinkering with it. Besides the players and the coaches, they have existing contracts. We’re assuming all contracts they have from the previous management,” Zorrilla said.

On Wednesday, the PBA board unanimously approved the sale of Barako Bull, finalizing a deal that was first agreed in 2011 but was rejected by the board after a league rule on competing brands was invoked by San Miguel Corp., which then used Petron Blaze.

Zorrilla said the best time to assess the team’s performance is at the end of the 41st PBA season.

“The team did well in their last campaign in the Philippine Cup, so I think we have a good team that is capable of making a playoff run. The company may be new or a rookie in the PBA, but we have veteran players on the team,” said Zorrilla.

Phoenix obtained a franchise that has a solid backcourt in sophomore RR Garcia, Josh Urbiztondo and Chico Lanete, wingmen in JC Intal and Mac Baracael, and a hard working forward in Willie Wilson, who averaged a team-best 17.50 points and 12.25 rebounds in the Philippine Cup.

The team will also have a champion coach – in the now defunct PBL and in the NCAA – in Koy Banal.

“We know coach Koy, we also know most of the players so it’s going to be an exciting bid for us in the Commissioner’s Cup,” said Zorrilla.

“While many basketball fans were surprised (with the board approval on Phoenix), for us we just grabbed the opportunity to be part of the No. 1 sports entertainment in the country. The PBA remains as the top vehicle to promote our product.”

“So even if we have a team in the PBA D-League, no problem to us. We’ll keep the two teams,” said Zorrilla, referring to their entry to the amateur league after they arranged a partnership with UAAP champion Far Eastern University.

The team executive did not reveal the amount the company had to dole out in order to complete the deal with Barako Bull.

League insiders, however, said it is not surprising if the amount surpasses the R100 million deal businessman Manny V. Pangilinan approved for the purchase of NLEX from Bert Lina prior to last season when it bought the franchise ofAir21.