MANILA, Philippines -- PBA commissioner Willie Marcial lamented the departure of the Alaska franchise from the league, calling it "a sad day for Philippine basketball."
Alaska announced on Wednesday morning that they are leaving the PBA after 35 seasons, signaling the end of an era. The Aces won 14 championships, including a Grand Slam, during their time in the PBA.
Marcial and PBA chairman Ricky Vargas were informed of the decision by Alaska team owner Fred Uytengsu just hours before the organization made the announcement public.
"Nakakalungkot, honest. Nakakalungkot. Sabi ko kay Mr. Fred, it's a sad day for Philippine basketball, most especially for the PBA," said Marcial.
Alaska has been rumored to be on its way out of the PBA for several years now, with Marcial even addressing reports in June 2020. Nonetheless, the commissioner said it was still a shock to hear Uytengsu's confirmation.
"Nakakabigla talaga," he said.
Marcial lauded Alaska's family-oriented approach to basketball, as well as their professionalism.
"Kita mo naman 'yung kanilang... kahit 'yung pagte-trade nila, 'yung disiplina nila on and off the court," said the commissioner.
"At alam ko si Mr. Fred, laging gusto 'pag lumabas, kunwari may celebration or maga-abroad, kailangan kasama ang pamilya mo. Buo sila, laging family. Family ang core ni Mr. Fred," he added.
Alaska remains a "bona fide member" of the PBA until April, as they will finish the Governors' Cup before officially leaving the league.
Nonetheless, Marcial is set to meet with the PBA Board of Governors as soon as possible to determine their next steps and study their by-laws. Uytengsu has said that it is possible for them to sell the Alaska franchise to a new company.
"Kailangan mag-meeting agad kami. Titingnan namin 'yung proseso, tingnan namin kung ano 'yung nasa policy namin," said Marcial. "As of now, bona fide member pa rin sila. Pero pag-aaralan namin, kasi biglaan eh. Kailangan namin mag-board meeting ASAP."
One thing is certain for Marcial: Uytengsu is always welcome to help the PBA, be it in an advisory capacity or even as commissioner.
"By all means," said Marcial. "Laging naga-advise sa akin 'yun. Welcome. Si Mr. Fred, welcome."
"Gusto niya maging commissioner, by all means. Alam niya, naging team owner siya, halos nag-manage siya ng team. So alam niya 'yung pasikot-sikot," he added.