CHITO LOYZAGA'S 'LAST HURAH'
Manila, August 6, 2002 (STAR) By Joaquin Henson - From the ashes of the Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA) will rise a league, much like the phoenix, or so says Joaquin (Chito) Loyzaga.
Unlike the MBA which folded up in the middle of its fifth season a few weeks ago, the new league envisioned by Loyzaga will be strictly amateur. But like the MBA, it will be regional in scope.
"This is my last hurrah," says Loyzaga who became the MBAís fourth commissioner this year only to see it crumble under the weight of insurmountable debts and hefty expenses. "I feel I owe it to our country, to the sport we all love, to players who rely on the game for their livelihood, and to the fans to try to make it happen. This is the call of our generation. Iím determined to do it."
Loyzaga, 43, played 12 seasons in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and retired in 1993. He saw action for the first PBA national squad that took the silver medal at the Beijing Asian Games in 1990.
Loyzagaís idea is to organize an amateur league made up of provincial teams. It will be complementary to but probably a level lower, in terms of quality of competition, than the Philippine Basketball League (PBL) whose clubs are based in Metro Manila. He says both his league and the PBL will feed the PBA with players who are good enough to turn pro.
Initially, the new league will be composed of eight teams Ė five from Luzon and one each from Cebu, Davao and Bacolod. The headquarters will be in Manila but all the teams will operate out of the provinces. A monthly salary cap of P50,000 will be imposed.
"We donít intend to rival the PBL or the PBA," he explains. "We see the formation of a triangle where the PBA is at the peak and the two points at the base are the PBL and our league."
Loyzaga says since last February, he has been conferring with PBA commissioner Emilio (Jun) Bernardino, Jr. and PBL commissioner Chino Trinidad on how to link up in creating a national pool using San Miguel Corp. chairman Eduardo (Danding) Cojuangcoís tested formula in the 1980s. He says the triangle could provide the solution to the problem in that the three points are coordinated to form a common bond.
Since the MBAís demise, Loyzaga says he has been assured of the cooperation of Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP) and its attachment, the National Basketball League (NBL). "Iíve talked with (NBL commissioner) Fritz (Gaston) and (BAP treasurer) Christian (Tan) and weíve agreed that this next step is critical," he says. "Weíre all in this together."
Loyzaga says the new league has nothing to do with the MBA or its owning company the Multi-Regional Basketball Inc. (MRBI). He hasnít severed ties with the MBA but presumes heís no longer the commissioner as the league has closed shop. Loyzaga notes that his biggest regret in his brief stint as MBA commissioner was not insisting to pack up earlier.
"Before the season started, I told the MRBI officials to forget about being a pro league, that they consider turning amateur," reveals Loyzaga. "But I didnít put my foot down. I tried to reason that we just couldnít afford the home-and-away format. The problem is Iím just a nobody in the league. Whom am I to tell them what to do?"
Loyzaga acknowledges that the MBA is burdened by debt and believes the league is duty-bound to explain how it intends to settle its obligations. The other day, he met with Alex Compton who is concerned about how other jobless MBA players will feed their families.
"I told Alex Iíd be willing to write the PBA and appeal for an exemption in his case so he can join the draft next year," says Loyzaga. "I think Alex deserves to be an exception. He was born here and has lived here the past few years. Surely, an exception can be made in his case. Alexí concern is not himself. I think heís saved for the future. Heís worried about the other players."
Loyzaga says he is recruiting broadcaster and his MBA deputy Butch Maniego to act as the head of the leagueís operations and former Ateneo player Boysie Henares, a retired banker, to take care of finance. He is also tapping Silverstar as the leagueís TV producer.
"Silverstar deserves a break," he says. "(Silverstar head) Louie (Kierulf) has a lot of new equipment. He invested in the NCAA only to lose the rights to somebody else. He invested in the UAAP and the same thing happened. Now, he canít even get paid by the MBA."
Loyzaga is looking for a marketing expert to complete his team. He plans to invite former Asian Basketball Confederation (ABC) secretary-general Moying Martelino to join the group as a consultant.
Loyzaga says each team may either manage its own payroll or leave the league to do it. He estimates a teamís annual budget to be about P10 million, including P3.5 to 4 million for salaries. There will be no franchise fee although a team is expected to turn in a capital contribution of P300,000 or 400,000.
"We will schedule the games in a way that teams will go on provincial swings to cut on traveling costs," he continues. "We will open the teams for commercial sponsorships. We will manage our costs and we will not be extravagant at all."
To accommodate displaced MBA players, Loyzaga says there will be no restrictions as to how many former pros a team may enlist. In the PBL, the limit is three. He adds that no draft will be conducted at the start and teams are expected to conduct their own tryouts then submit their rosters.
If plans donít miscarry, Loyzaga hopes to launch the new league in November and finish in June. There wonít be more than one conference, he notes. Itíll be a single tournament for a single national championship every season.
"Iím serious about this," says Loyzaga. "This week, Iíll finish my pencil-pushing and start producing a power-point presentation to show prospective sponsors what the league is all about in visuals."
Loyzaga is temporarily holding office at Silverstarís Makati Cinema Square premises. Heís not in a hurry to set up his own office Ė heís not big on frills and accouterments. Loyzagaís a brass-tacks type of guy who likes to get things done with no fanfare. Thatís why the betting is Loyzagaís new baby is bound to succeed.
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
2002 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS
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