(STAR)  SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson - With his resignation as PBA commissioner, Noli Eala leaves behind a track record of achievements that his successor – whoever he is – will, no doubt, find difficult to equal, much less surpass.

But the consolation for the man next in line is Eala has paved the way for the PBA to continue an upward trend for years to come. That, more than anything else, is Eala’s legacy. He hands over the mantle of leadership with no baggage, no skeletons in the closet and a clean bill of health.

For over four years, Eala was at the PBA’s helm, leading it out of the doldrums to a renaissance that brought the league back to the glory era when live attendance and TV ratings were on a high.

It wasn’t easy for Eala to mastermind the turn-around. He hurdled tremendous obstacles and defied enormous odds to pilot the PBA out of the woods. Eala presided in the PBA’s rebirth and with the backing of the Board of Governors, painstakingly positioned the league for long-term growth.

Eala couldn’t have done it alone. And he’ll be the first to tell anyone he owes it to the Board, the team owners, the staff, the players, the coaches, the media and all those who are the league’s lifeblood for the positive things that happened in his watch.

Eala followed in the footsteps of his illustrious predecessors – Leo Prieto, Mariano Yenko, Jr., Rudy Salud, Rey Marquez and Jun Bernardino – and achieved more than what was expected of him in such a short period.

Eala’s list of accomplishments reads like a litany of milestones – the institutionalization of the North-South All-Star Week, the rationalization of the two-conference format, the tweaking of the rules to make the game more exciting, the resolution of the Fil-Sham issue, the end to drug-related problems, his leadership role in FIBA lifting the country’s suspension, the crusade to rebuild respect for the Philippines in the global basketball community, the transformation of Draft-Day into a major media event, the expansion of the league, the establishment of a PBA Hall of Fame and the Leo Awards, the outreach program to bring the PBA closer to fans beyond Metro Manila and abroad, the conceptualization of a permanent trophy, the staging of invitational tournaments featuring foreign teams, the PBA’s relocation to Libis and the streamlining of head office functions for more efficiency, the settlement of the TV contract, the financial stabilization of the league, the restoration of public confidence, the innovation of the wildcard phase (to radically reduce the incidence of no-bearing games) and automatic semis berths (to reward consistently quality performance), the propagation of the PBA as a major source of news in media (including the internet), and the introduction of marketing tools (like the Give Me 5 Promo and the Hula Hoops gaming) to improve turnstile sales and TV ratings.

There isn’t anyone who can say Eala didn’t do a good job in his term. He brought passion back into the PBA and it triggered a widespread fever that led to a resurgence of mass interest in the league.

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling to disbar Eala for personal, not professional, reasons was a bitter pill to swallow. His decision to resign was unprecedented. Usually, Filipinos in high-profile jobs, such as Eala’s, hold on to their positions until they’re forced to vacate and bodily hauled out of office. But Eala, in a class act, opted to cut and cut clean, as they say. He never wanted to be a burden to the league and cause it unnecessary embarrassment.

During his administration, Eala set a lofty standard of professionalism, passion and integrity in managing the league’s affairs. He will long be remembered as the Commissioner who sacrificed everything, including himself, for the good of the league.

As for the PBA, it will go on, steered in the right direction by a Commissioner who has left a legacy of a lifetime. Eala’s imprint will cast a giant shadow on the league as it welcomes the challenges of the future with confidence, clarity of purpose and a commitment to the public to be better than ever before. 

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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