(STAR) By Nelson Beltran - PBA commissioner Sonny Barrios will announce his choice for coach of the RP team competing in the 2009 FIBA Asia men’s championship in Guangzhou, China before the opening of the 34th PBA season on Oct. 3 at the Araneta Coliseum.

“I hope to give the matter really a careful thought ,” Barrios told The STAR before leaving for the Unites States for a brief vacation.”(Upon my return) I’ll be meeting whoever is my choice. Then I’m going to make an official announcement.”

Majority of the PBA board is batting for Red Bull’s Yeng Guiao but the league commissioner has the sole authority to make the choice.

“I’m keeping my options open. I’m not committed to any coach,” said Barrios, adding that the man will come from among 10 PBA coaches.

He said the would-be mentor would be given the blanket authority to form his team as has always been the case in all the PBA-backed RP team starting with the one formed by coach Sonny Jaworski for the 1990 Beijing Asian Games.

Meanwhile, Red Bull has apporved new pacts with Cyrus Baguio and Carlo Sharma, both given significant salary hike following impressive showing in the recent PBA season.

Baguio, the Most Improved Player awardee, will receive P270,000 a month in the coming season and a maximum monthly pay of P350,000 the following campaign.

Red Bull governor Tony Chua said they would also sign up rookie draftees Larry Rodriguez and Jeff Chan and one from among either Al Magpayo or Christian Cabatu.

At Purefoods, team manager Alvin Patrimonio said draftees Beau Belga and Jonathan Fernandez have to earn their slots in the coming tryouts with the likes of James Yap, Kerby Raymundo, Enrico Villanueva, Chico Lanete, Roger Yap, Jondan Salvador and Peter June Simon assured of slots in the coming season.

Being considered are free agents Chad Alonzo and Al Vergara. Retiring at the end of the 2007-08 season were Rey Evangelista and Noy Castillo.

Barrios’ lucky charm SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin M. Henson Friday, September 5, 2008

At the 15th PBA Press Corps Awards Night in the Bay View Park Hotel last Tuesday, commissioner Sonny Barrios, in his remarks, said he will always cherish the memories of attending the annual event.

Barrios recounted that last year, he went to the Awards Night as a guest to pay tribute to the late commissioner Jun Bernardino. The next day, the PBA Board of Governors announced his appointment as OIC. Today, he is the league’s seventh commissioner after Leo Prieto, Mariano Yenko, Rudy Salud, Rey Marquez, Bernardino and Noli Eala.

Barrios pointed to the PBA Press Corps as his lucky charm.

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Last year’s top overall draft pick Joe DeVance showed up to accept his plaque with Ryan Reyes, Chico Lanete, Ronjay Buenafe and Doug Kramer as the picks for the league’s All-Rookie first five.

DeVance, who was traded to Alaska a few days ago, said he’s excited to play for the Aces this season. Alaska coach Tim Cone also welcomed DeVance’s arrival, saying he’s a perfect fit for the team to be more competitive. DeVance is a 6-7 frontliner who has shooting range, runs the floor and can play the post. In exchange, Cone gave up Solomon Mercardo and Eddie Laure to Rain or Shine.

Lanete’s rise to prominence was extraordinary. He initially applied for the PBA draft in 2005 but never showed up for the rookie camp, cancelling his eligibility. The next year, he applied again but wasn’t drafted. As a free agent, Lanete was invited to try out for Ginebra but couldn’t crack the roster. Finally, Purefoods coach Ryan Gregorio gave him a chance and Lanete made the most of his opportunity.

Another long-shot awardee was Purefoods’ P. J. Simon of Purefoods. He never played in the UAAP or NCAA, polishing his act at the University of Mindanao. In 2001, Simon was the 43rd pick of 48 applicants chosen in the draft and didn’t bother to show up for tryouts. He finally made it to the PBA three years later.

This past season, Simon was the MVP in the All-Star Game, scoring 29 points on 11-of-14 from the floor off the bench to lead the South to a 163-158 overtime win over the North. And in 50 games, he averaged 13.4 points.

There was no doubt he deserved the Mr. Quality Minutes award, a tribute previously given to Ronald Tubid twice, Mark Caguioa, RenRen Ritualo and Olsen Racela.

The other honorees were as deserving. Air21’s Arwind Santos, who came with father-in-law Danny Gavieres, took the Defensive Player of the Year award and Red Bull’s Mike Hrabak, who led the league in three-point marksmanship, was recognized as Comeback Player of the Year.

Purefoods’ James Yap received the Accel-Smart Player of the Week Order of Merit plaque for his four citations as Player of the Week during the season. Coca-Cola’s Asi Taulava was similarly cited, sharing the award with Yap. Jess Ferrer was named Referee of the Year.

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Broadcaster T. J. Manotoc came to accept a citation for his father Tommy who was in Taipei coaching the Philippine team in a major international amateur tournament. The PBA recognized Manotoc for his contributions to the league as a coach with six championships, including a Grand Slam, and a deputy commissioner.

T. J. recalled that in 1978 - 30 years ago, his father piloted U-Tex to the PBA championship.

“The championship was special because it was the first time that neither Crispa nor Toyota won it,” said T. J. “It was made even more special in the way they won it, when they came back from four points down with 16 seconds remaining to win it in overtime, when there was no three-point line to speak of.

“None of that would have happened if he didn’t have all the players, personnel and coaching support that he had then. From his imports Aaron James and Glenn McDonald, whom to this day, he is in contact with and I have been lucky to meet in my adult age, to the locals led by Jimmy Noblezada, Lim Eng Beng, Fritz Gaston and Rudy Kutch.”

T. J. said his father revolutionized the way the game was played in the PBA by focusing on defense because he knew no team could beat Crispa or Toyota in a shootout.

“The PBA now is not about two teams,” continued T. J. “It has become wide open with the way teams are being prepared and it is a testament to the commitment of the owners to come up with the best team possible.

“My dad keeps telling me that what we are seeing are great signs of life for the renewed PBA. And he is confident that the league leadership will continue to take the proper steps to bring it back to its status before, like 30 years ago when it was undeniably No. 1 in the hearts of the fans.

“To the Press Corps, my dad says keep up the good work. You are a worthy partner of the PBA, which wouldn’t have gotten this far without your help.

“To the league, my dad thanks you for the continuing effort to look back and honor the hard work that the pioneers put into making the league go in a direction that would bring it where it is today.

“We all hope and pray and that this sports entertainment vehicle will continue to grow and provide the best Filipino basketball that the fans truly deserve. You have been so much a part of Juan de la Cruz’ daily life that it’s hard imagining the country without the PBA.”

Outgoing PBA chairman Tony Chua was recognized for his leadership last season. Someone mentioned the 23,000 fans who packed the Araneta Coliseum to watch Game 7 of the Fiesta Conference finals really came to salute Chua on the last playing day of the season under his watch.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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