The challenge of the next commish
In a recent guesting on the nightly TV show Sports Desk, I answered the question on who the next PBA commissioner would be by saying that the office has to be first reviewed to respond to the multiple agendas of the three-decades-plus-old pro league.
I further responded to Mico Halili and Chesca Litton’s follow-up questions by saying a new business model may be necessary for the PBA.
Given the limited TV time, I explained that the model should transcend the current structure where everything seems centralized in the commissioner: Officiating, parity, marketing and media exposure. Back in the day (a phrase seemingly in vogue nowadays when talking about the past) when the PBA started, the one-man commissioner act was ideal and useful for the league when it opened in 1975.
Such a model is arguably too much of a burden for the present day commissioner who has to deal with so many publics and hold several hands all at the same time.
Some will disagree but I think Chito Salud, who is leaving at the end of the current season, did a credible job at the helm. He was not without his share of controversy but that comes with the terrain. His understanding of the game helped him mete out many appropriate fines and suspensions. The 12-team PBA we have today with still more applicants waiting to be accepted is proof that the league under Salud’s term continued to be viable and suitable for teams wanting to push their names and products.
But as times change, even the best of us may not be sufficient.
The PBA still needs a commissioner to make the final decisions or proposals to the Board of Governors. However, the departments like officiating, marketing, social media, broadcast and others have to be entrusted to vice president-like personalities who should be more known by the general public.
Again, the NBA structure maybe a good model or peg for a possible review of the PBA commissioner’s office. However, other sports structures in baseball, American football and global football may be worth reviewing to find good concepts for running a professional sports league.
Recent reports show that the PBA has already discussed this even before boring in on whom to name as commissioner. This is a move in the right direction, as the infrastructure does need some reassessment.
With changes forthcoming, the PBA could take several paths in choosing the next commissioner: A symbolic basketball figure, a lawyer (who seems to have the edge in untangling disputes and knowing what to say in many situations), an officiating expert or a marketing guru.
Or even none of the above.
The choice may have to be a leader-manager who has vision, the personality to allow others to run departments and shine and have charisma to smile his or her way through complaining coaches and managers and the expected occasional rough sailing.
The search is on.