SEOUL – The man who will succeed him as 42nd season chairman of the Philippine Basketball Association has yet to kick off his term, but Robert Non, his second tour of duty in four years over as soon as the Board of Governors convenes for its annual planning session here, is already looking back at what has come to pass.
Like the introduction of women referees in PBA games and the ushering of women’s 3-on-3 basketball in between games which could next season be expanded into full 5-on-5 competition.
“And don’t forget the historic comeback win of San Miguel Beer from 0-3 in the All-Filipino Cup Finals, Jimmy Alapag’s all-time three-point shooting record (which surpassed Allan Caidic’s long-standing mark), Meralco’s first-ever stint in the championship, and Barangay Ginebra [San Miguel] ending eight years without a title,” says Non at breakfast at the Plaza Hotel in front of City Hall.
And which among the milestones ranks as his biggest achievement?
“None of them,” says the SMB alternate governor over brewed coffee.
“What’s most fulfilling for me is helping get the board agree on how best to support the national team,” he says.
“Nakita ko na mukhang tuloy-tuloy na ang partnership; may sistema na lalo na sa drafting nong Cadets and sa scheduling na noon pa naman e hinihingi na ng PBA.”
Non considers a fully-committed PBA to the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas’ Gilas program the crowning glory of his two terms, bookending the tenure of Meralco’s Mon Segismundo in 2014 and a switch in succession with TNT KaTropa’s Patrick Gregorio the following year after Non underwent heart surgery.
“It’s a call of duty, kumbaga, at mahirap tanggihan ang service to flag and country,” says Non. “Di makakatalikod ang PBA sa ganoong tawag. Talagang kailangan mong gawan ng paraan; concretize how to go about it. And that’s what happened now, and that’s why I consider that achievement most fulfilling. It gives me a sense that I have done my job.”
It was a job that started in 2013 when he was board representative of Barangay Ginebra and concurrent PBA chairman as per the league’s rule of succession.
“We were able to start a lot of things back then which I believed we were able to continue this past season,” says Non.
His term gave way to Segismundo’s time at the helm in 2014 before tragedy struck and a sudden illness caused the life of incoming chairman Ely Capacio of San Miguel. Capacio’s untimely demise left a dearth in the Beermen’s managerial hierarchy and Non was dispatched by SMC president and COO Ramon S. Ang to assume Capacio’s post, with former Ginebra coach Alfrancis Chua, who had stepped down at the end of the 2013 season to become the Kings’ team manager, filling up Non’s void.
Then came more bad news and a truly alarming health scare.
Preparing to assume the 2015 chairmanship for the second time in three years, this time as SMB governor, Non experienced severe chest pains and was rushed to the hospital where doctors at St. Luke’s performed immediate quadruple heart bypass.
The operation was a success and Non started the long road to recovery and therapy while Gregorio, on Non’s recommendation, moved up the chain of command and became the league’s next chairman in a position switch.
Two months after his February surgery, Non was back on his feet with a clean bill of health from his doctors and well-wishes from family and friends.
He eventually took over the chairmanship after Gregorio’s term and presided over the board in a restructured PBA organization after five-year commissioner Chito Salud stepped down to accept the post of president and CEO in a corporate league setting.
In Salud’s place, a search committee named former Shell coach and banker Chito Narvasa as commissioner with the exclusive function of overseeing the game’s day-to-day operations.
“We were willing to give it a try, at least for one conference, to see if it will work,” says Non. “But after a few months, president-CEO Chito retired and so we ended up returning to the old structure. Di na natuloy after his retirement; di na rin nakita ang full potential kung papalitan ang structure ng liga.”
It has been a year and a month since he started his second term in four years, 9 months after Salud retired and Narvasa gained full authority of the Commissioner’s Office under the former setup, and a few hours before Globalport
Batang Pier team owner and Rep. Mikee Romero takes on the challenge of being chairman for the 42nd PBA season.
Deep in his thoughts as he prepares to turn over the mantle of leadership, Robert Non is asked how easy or taxing has the chairmanship been?
“It sure wasn’t easy, but neither was it really difficult,” Non says. “Dealing with the governors, you can’t expect them to agree 100 percent all the time. But at the end of the day, after all the debates and heated arguments, we all agree on what’s best for the league. Part and parcel lang ung arguments. Sa huli, buo pa rin kami; one voice pa rin.”