Former PBA commissioner Noli Eala has an unsolicited advice to Chito Narvasa, the beleaguered incumbent commissioner: Resign for the good of the league and Philippine basketball.
Speaking as guest of retired player Eric Menk in the latter’s Staying Major podcast on Wednesday, Eala said Narvasa should take the “ultimate sacrifice” of vacating his post to settle an issue that has split the PBA Board of Governors and left the league in a bind.
“Commissioner Chito [Narvasa] is under the gun here. He cannot govern without the full support of the board. It’s going to be very difficult. And if I were him, I would consider having a transition, I would consider leaving,” Eala told Menk.
Last week, Narvasa rebuffed a call by a majority bloc of the league’s board, comprising seven of 12 governors, for him to resign due to “loss of confidence” in his leadership of the league.
The bloc’s stunning decision came after Narvasa approved the controversial trade between San Miguel Beer and Kia that sent top draft pick Christian Standhardinger to SMB, further bolstering its powerhouse roster, in exchange for bench players Ronald Tubid, JayR Reyes, Rashawn McCarthy, and SMB’s 2019 first round pick.
Narvasa’s approval of the deal was roundly denounced by the majority bloc, which accused the commissioner of failing to ensure parity in the league. The seven PBA governors subsequently agreed to no longer endorse Narvasa’s renewal of term during a special board meeting on Nov. 2.
However, the Narvasa defied the majority bloc’s decision, saying he will continue to stay in his post.
In his remarks on Menk’s podcast, Eala said he would rather not comment on the action taken by Narvasa on the controversial SMN-Kia deal. However, since the issue has already caused a major rift in the league, Eala said Narvasa should end his defiance and step down for the good of the league and for the sake of the basketball-loving public.
“It’s not easy to hear that you have seven teams not supporting you. It’s even harder that these seven teams think that you are biased for the five,” said Eala, who served as commissioner from 2003 to 2007.
“This impasse will have to be broken by the commissioner. He will have to make the ultimate sacrifice for the league,” Eala stressed.
At the same time, the former sportscaster expressed sympathy to Narvasa, saying he believes the commissioner is not a biased person. “I’ve known him a long time. He may have had a few decisions that were questionable, but he has all the good intentions for the league. All commissioners do,” Eala said.
The former commissioner said it was unfortunate that Narvasa found himself under fire following the controversial SMB-Kia deal.
“There are two sides always in a trade, you cannot take it away from teams to get better and you cannot take away from teams to complain,” Eala explained.
“The commissioner’s job is to balance these two, the ones who want to get better and those saying that is not fair to us. It becomes difficult because a trade must be taken under certain circumstances and must be evaluated based on how the commissioner sees the current situation in the league,” he added.
Eala said he disagrees with the action taken by the majority bloc in the board as a result of the controversial deal as well as Narvasa’s defiance with the majority bloc’s ruling.
Eala said the solution, in this case, is not to fire the commissioner but to come up with a “policy that will ensure that the commissioner has parameters in deciding trades.”
The former commissioner suggested one policy that could prevent such a controversy from erupting again: Prevent expansion ballclubs like Kia from trading draft picks in their first five years, the league minimum for any new franchise.
“That ensures the talent will go to you and you have the responsibility to develop a real team,” Eala explained.
Another measure that could prevent wrangling in the board is free agency, which would allow players to choose their own teams, he said.
“I really think the PBA has to evolve. I understand they have a rule for rookies now, where after a certain number of years, some kind of free agency, after five years they can choose, maybe that’s a start. I honestly think all these controversies with trades can be, not eliminated, but minimized if you allow players to look for their own teams.” Eala added.