Part 1 of 2
MANILA, Philippines – In December 2014, PBA Commissioner Atty. Angelico “Chito” Salud sat with a small group of sportswriters to share and discuss his thoughts about the league’s partnership with the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), the country’s basketball federation.
Below is part 1 of the hour-long interview, with minor edits for clarity.
What can you say about the PBA’s involvement now with the SBP and the national team?
The arrangement now shows you a leveling up. A stronger collaboration between the SBP and the PBA, the team owners, the governors. I would say we have leveled up, the ties are stronger. Collaboration is there. I think we’re in a much better place right now than before.
Does that partnership guarantee better performance for the nationals?
Well, what we can expect is that there will be more players available because the teams are now involved in selecting the players. They will have a voice in suggesting who they think might be good to be included in the pool.
Who initiated deeper collaboration for national team?
The SBP. They initiated it.
Will SBP have more say in choosing the players?
No, it’s a collaboration. If you noticed, the committee [same committee that screened the new national team head coach] is made up of SBP and PBA personnel. It’s going to be a collaborative effort.
Was this collaboration and active participation in the national team born out of frustration from the 2014 Asian Games performance?
Everything was born out of the desire to consolidate whatever gains we had in the past 2 or 3 years and to chart a more strategic course to improve our current performance. That’s the main goal.
And let me re-focus: Asian supremacy is what we are going for. That’s the main goal. We want to prove that we still are a force in Asia. I don’t want to digress or have my attention be diverted just because we did so well in the World Cup – that’s a bonus. First, we have to focus on Asia. Where are we in Asia? What’s our rank now in Asia? Have we done enough? Our Asian Games performance – 7th – that’s not the Philippines. I think we should belong in the top 3, at the very least, in Asia. (READ: Why one win matters)
After the 2014 FIBA World Cup, Chot Reyes was practically given a gold or nothing situation at the Asian Games. At the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship, at stake is a 2016 Rio Olympics qualification, will the new coach [Tab Baldwin] be given that same condition?
Well, obviously that’s the goal. The goal is to gain a berth in the Olympics. But I don’t think it’s an all or nothing thing at this point, considering that the coach would be new. I think what is important here is, in the short term, what are his plans? In the long term, what are his plans? Because the Gilas program is here to stay, as Mr. Pangilinan has repeatedly stated.
Do you think the national team coaching job is appealing, considering all of the backlash involved and the challenges?
It won’t be a thankless job. It’s appealing, it’s challenging. The coach will have all the resources available. But that doesn’t make it any less difficult, for sure. It’s a high-pressure job.
The USA team is under USA Basketball. They have a say in choosing players and formation, and the coach just runs it. Last time Chot Reyes had full blanket control. Will the new coach have that full authority, too?
The coach will have the final say. But all the guidelines and all the contributions and inputs will be given to him. But in the end it’s really the coach who’ll have the final say. After all, he’ll be the one at the helm. He’ll be the one running the team. He’s the captain of the ship.
And he’ll take all the blame?
*laughs* No, not necessarily.
Did you encounter any signs of hesitation among team owners about sending their players to the national team?
Have you heard any of our team owners point that out? That, 'Who will take care of my player if he gets injured?' Remember, they continue giving him (player) the salary under the UPC (Uniform Player Contract), under the contract that he has with the mother ballclub – even during the time that he serves the national team. But no, wala (none). Wala tayong naririnig about that (We don’t hear anything about that). And that shows you the kind of support our team owners give to the national team. But it’s a valid concern. They spend a lot of money for the players for training and of course the salary. But in the end, this country is basketball-crazy. And our team owners know that one way of serving public interest is to make sure that their players are available to the national team.
Do you still foresee that the PBA will lend players?
It depends. It depends on the kind of schedule that they will institute internationally, and on the long-term plan of Gilas.
We’ve got Batang Gilas now, is there a mission to expand the PBA’s scope when it comes to development? What is the role of the PBA in the effort to develop from the grassroots level?
Well, the PBA of course is a member of the Board of Trustees and we give our inputs there. And we have already registered our comments there. We said we need better coaching. So there’s a coaching clinic, grassroots level, to be put in place. Then officiating, it should be uniform. From grade school to high school to college, up to the time they reach the pros. It should be uniform. Whatever that is, we will have to agree on that. And then of course the identification of the talents. We need to get to those talented players ahead of everybody else.
With Alex Compton and Eric Altamirano from the NBTC going to the PBA and UAAP, we see that even the coaching talent, which should have been cooaching grassroots, is hired by top collegiate and pro teams, how would the SBP and PBA address that?
We need to have a cohesive plan. Better shooting, better coaching, and better officiating. So that our players get prepared for any kind of officiating outside. If you notice, officiating is different when it comes to FIBA Asia. It’s different also when it comes to FIBA Americas or FIBA Europes. Then you have FIBA World. Iba-iba e (It’s all different). We need to be able to identify what is the best way for our players to adjust easily wherever we go. But of course, main thing there is Asia. Because again, we want to be the best basketball nation in Asia. The World is a bonus, the Olympics is a bonus.