NEWLY appointed Converge ICT governor Atty. Angelico “Chito” Salud has an enviable edge over the other 11 members of the PBA board – the unique perspective of having been the commissioner of the well-established play-for-league from 2010 to 2015.
“I am intimate with the rules and regulations of the PBA, which I hope to bring as a member of the PBA board under the new Converge ICT franchise,” said Salud, who followed in the footsteps of his lawyer-father, Rudy, who was commissioner of the PBA during its halcyon days from 1988 to 1992.
As a former PBA steward and overseer, the UP law graduate aims to bring in the best practices and principles of the 12 clubs he observed under his watch, hoping to infuse these elements into a winning formula with the franchise acquired by Converge ICT boss Dennis Uy from Alaska.
Once the deal with Wilfred Uytengsu for the celebrated Alaska Aces was complete, the Pampanga businessman did not look far in finding the ideal man in reconstructing the club in Salud, who has been his friend since the early 2000s when Uy began building his fiber optic broadband network empire.
“When the acquisition (of the Alaska franchise) was concluded, he (Uy) asked me to join him as governor for Converge ICT. This is our first professional working relationship together,” he said.
“My focus right now is to help Converge build a competitive team, with the objective in making the league more exciting and more competitive,” stressed Salud, whose team will sport the moniker Fiber Xers.
“Building on the tradition and legacy left by Alaska, I want to have a winning team that will draw new fans to the club and the league,” he said, referring to Alaska’s 14 PBA championships, including the 1996 grand slam under celebrated coach Tim Cone.
He said that “having a team in the country’s premier sports entertainment and marketing vehicle” proved to be irresistible for Uy in his grand expansion plans to lure more subscribers to his broadband services that now counts nearly 2 million, and still growing.
Salud said the key to this transition was retaining the services of coach Jeffrey Cariaso because “we want to make sure that there is a semblance of stability in this team. We want to see where this team will go and as far as where it will go.
“The team has a lot of potential. We believe that Jeff, who has been handling this team for the last two years, is in the best position to bring this team to greater heights.”
Besides building on Alaska’s winning legacy and reputation for integrity, Salud said was empathic that the Fiber Xers would not become a “way station” for other clubs in their bid to bolster and beef up their rosters, having witnessed and experienced it firsthand during his own stint as PBA commissioner.
“Converge ICT is a publicly listed company. It’s one of the top corporations in the Philippines right now. And as such, it observes the highest principles of governance and transparency. It entered the PBA with those things in mind,” Salud pointed out.
“We will do everything in our power to equip this team with the necessary tools to give that opportunity to win.”
He noted that the league was more competitive than ever, saying: “Competition runs in the veins of the PBA teams and we must be ready to meet that challenge.”
The ICT Converge club honcho gave a glimpse on how he hopes to achieve this lofty goal.
“As you know, team chemistry and its constitution is an evolving process. It is our job to make sure we have the right pieces to fit any existing conditions we find our team in. If we lack this player, we look for this player,” he said. “In other words, what we are saying is finding the right players for the system the coaching staff wants to put in.
“Once those players are found we will keep them and it is incumbent upon us to let go of those who don’t fit that system.”
As Rome wasn’t built in a day, Salud acknowledged that forming a championship squad could not be done overnight, citing such examples as Rain Or Shine, Meralco and the defunct Sta. Lucia squad, which took several years before they finally captured that elusive PBA title.
Emphasizing that the Converge ICT Fiber Xers were in for the long haul, he was optimistic that while “time will play a major factor in this, so long as we do our homework, then there’s no reason for us not to succeed.”