This Day in PBA History: Tanduay leaves league, then Purefoods takes over

Rey Joble

Posted at Jan 16 2022 09:23 PM | Updated as of Jan 17 2022 10:40 AM

Multi-champion head coach Chot Reyes, who now calls the shots for TNT, recalls his role engineering Purefoods' inclusion in the PBA in 1988, saying it was a unique opportunity. PBA Media Bureau/file
Multi-champion head coach Chot Reyes, who now calls the shots for TNT, recalls his role engineering Purefoods' inclusion in the PBA in 1988, saying it was a unique opportunity. PBA Media Bureau/file

A sales backlash owing to the alleged death of a couple of Tanduay drinkers forced the Rhum Makers, who just won three championships from 1986 and 1987, to take a leave of absence in the PBA.

On this day, 34 years ago on January 16, 1988, the PBA announced that the Elizalde-owned franchise will take a leave of absence but shortly after, a new company, Purefoods, acquired the franchise.

The Ayala-owned company purchased Tanduay worth P300,000 and in turn secured the services of the team's key players, including Ramon Fernandez, Freddie Hubalde, JB Yango, Padim Israel, Willie Generelao and Onchie dela Cruz.

Purefoods was also given probably the best consensus for a new team as it was allowed to elevate 4 direct hires plus the No.1 draft pick in that year's Rookie Draft.

Joining the old Tanduay stalwarts were Jojo Lastimosa, Jerry Codiñera, Glenn Capacio and later on, Alvin Patrimonio, who could only join Purefoods, as he finished his contractual obligations with corporate rival, Swift, in the PABL, during the All-Filipino conference. 

Chot Reyes, then a young executive working for Purefoods, had a hand in the team's participation in the PBA, although he didn't become a part of the team's coaching staff in its early years.

"I was the one na nagpasok sa Purefoods sa PABL," Reyes said. "Then, a few years later, in 1988, I was the one who put the team together para ipasok sila sa PBA. Kasi nag-disband na ’yung Tanduay."

"It was a big opportunity for us kasi nga we have 4 of 5 picks in the draft and then the core of the Tanduay team. Grabe ’yung concession. Kaya nga sinabi ko noon sa aming president, si Mr. Rene Buhain, 'Boss, we'll never have this opportunity again ever'. We didn't think we are a 100 percent ready, but sabi ko hindi na darating ulit ’yung opportunity na ganito. So we jumped in. I wasn’t coaching. I was on the management side," Reyes added.

Fernandez, the best player in the PBA at that time, was named player-coach by Purefoods. It was the best strategy marketing-wise as the man known as "El Presidente" was at the height of his rivalry with Robert Jaworski, then the playing coach of Ginebra.

"I built the Purefoods team when we came in," added Fernandez. "Mr. Buhain insisted that I'll be the player and coach at the same time. We agreed to that, but we came up with a few additions. Sina Jerry, Jojo Lastimosa, Glenn Capacio and then Alvin Patrimonio."

According to Fernandez, he was already talking to Patrimonio when the then amateur standout was still playing for Swift, and he persuaded the young star to become the future of the franchise.

"I was already talking to him, convincing him to join us at the very start," Fernandez said. "Pero ang bait ni Alvin eh. Talagang may loyalty sa team. Hindi niya maiwanan ang Swift at that time. So I thought of a plan where he can join us and that is the All-Filipino."

"Sinabi ko na lang sa kanya, hatiin mo na lang ’yung year. First half of the year, doon ka sa Swift, then sa second half, doon ka na sa amin," said Fernandez. "We were telling him that the offer we gave him that time, hindi na mabibigay sa kanya. It was a very hefty sum. Nakita niya rin naman na potential contender ’yung team." 

Aside from joining his idol, Fernandez, Patrimonio would also team up anew with his former RP team teammates -- Lastimosa, Codinera and Capacio -- and Jack Tanuan, who was selected as the top overall pick in the 1988 Rookie Draft.

Purefoods also engineered a trade, acquiring Al Solis and Totoy Marquez, from Shell.
 
The rest was history.

Purefoods nearly made a cinderella finish, making it all the way to the championship round as early as its maiden conference, losing to San Miguel Beer in 7 games of the 1988 Open Conference.

"Mahirap," said Fernandez, when asked about his new role as playing coach. "But I'm happy with the result. We came in runner-up kaagad and natalo kami ng San Miguel. David Thirkill didn't really perform to my expectations compared to the way he played when he was with Tanduay."

Thirdkill, then the reigning Best Import, had a sub-par performance, particularly during the finals series. In Game 7, he ended up with only 16 points and was completely outplayed by Norman Black.

Controversy also surrounded the Hotdogs as early as the first season.

In the 1988 All-Filipino, Fernandez, who had been at odds with management, particularly Buhain, was ordered to be benched right after a below-par performance during the Hotdogs' series opener against Anejo Rum 65.

Fernandez didn't play the rest of the series and the 65ers defeated the young Hotdogs, 3-1, in the series.

Before the end of the season, Fernandez was shipped to San Miguel Beer for old rival, Abet Guidaben, the same time both players traded places.

But that's another story. 


Rey Joble is a sportswriter who has been covering the PBA since 1998, and a fan of the league way before that. 

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