By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter
JANUARY 2019 will mark the first year of Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner Willie Marcial at the helm in an official capacity of Asia’s first play-for-pay league and he is looking forward to steering the PBA further and building on their gains in Year One.
Speaking to PBA reporters recently, the ever-amiable PBA commissioner said his first year in the job was a good one albeit admitted it could have been better, especially on the aspect of bringing the league to the people and enticing them to go out and watch the games live, which is one of the key thrusts of his leadership.
Mr. Marcial said they have laid down several programs geared towards that direction and crafting some more moving forward to keep the league vibrant and for fans to experience the PBA in the venues.
“It has been a good year I would say. All the finals were great but we still want to involve the fans some more especially in the venues,” said Mr. Marcial.
“Online, livestreaming and TV we have no problems. But venue attendance is proving to be challenging which is why for next year that is one thing we are looking at to improve on, to give fans a different experience when they are in the venues,” he added.
In his first year, the league saw the San Miguel Beermen and Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok battle in the Philippine Cup championship which the former won in five games.
San Miguel then met the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings in the finals of the midseason tournament Commissioner’s Cup but lost out in six games.
Magnolia then was able to redeem itself when it recently copped the season-ending PBA Governors’ Cup with a six-game conquest of the Alaska Aces.
Mr. Marcial went on to say that apart from promotional programs for the league they are working on with new marketing partner Excite, they, too, would continue with their corporate social responsibility programs and give back to communities.
As to him being comfortable with the commissioner’s job, Mr. Marcial, who is the league’s long-time media bureau chief, said it was not much of a transition as he has been part of the PBA for some time now and had been doing some of the things he is tasked to do before.
“I have been doing these things for a while now and the only difference this time around is I have a commissioner’s label now. It’s the same. Nothing has changed to how I deal with people in the league and our partners and to media,” Mr. Marcial said.
Mr. Marcial was officially handed the PBA commissioner’s job in January this year, replacing the embattled Chito Narvasa, who was asked by majority of the league board to resign late in 2017 for “loss of confidence.”
Mr. Marcial was installed as officer-in-charge in the aftermath before being named as the league’s 10th commissioner, following Lito Prieto, Mariano Yenko, Rudy Salud, Rey Marquez, Jun Bernardino, Noli Eala, Sonny Barrio, Chito Salud and Mr. Narvasa.
Meanwhile, it has been reported that the annual league awards, the Leo Awards, for PBA Season 43 will be held on Jan. 13, 2019 in time for the opening of Season 44 at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.
Due to the restructured league calendar this year to help the Philippine men’s national basketball team in its preparations, the handing out of the top league individual awards had to be pushed back.
Battling for the PBA most valuable player award are June Mar Fajardo of San Miguel, Stanley Pringle of Northport and Japeth Aguilar of Barangay Ginebra.
Jason Perkins of Phoenix and Jeron Teng of Alaska, meanwhile, are among those vying for the top rookie award.