MANILA, Philippines — In the end, they all agreed that what the PBA needed at this time was not someone with a vision but one with a mission to heal the wounds and steer the league back to its lofty stature.
They didn’t have to look far or go through the tedious search process for they found him right in their own front office – a virtual handyman who breathed and lived PBA.
Willie Marcial, the long-time PBA Media Bureau chief, was named full-time PBA commissioner and entrusted with an enviable task of nursing the severely divided league back to its feet.
The 56-year-old Marcial was the one the PBA board felt could lead the league to its ever-changing fortunes brought about by corporate interests and seething rivalries.
He will be the 10th commissioner of Asia’s first play-for-pay league but unlike his predecessors, who were all steeped in technical knowhow, Marcial is coming in with vast experience, having served under four commissioners plus an uncanny talent of mending severed ties among players and ballclubs.
“He’ll help us through. He’ll be the healing commissioner,” said PBA board chairman Ricky Vargas in announcing the appointment of Marcial.
In their first meeting in the year, the PBA governors also approved the lifting of restrictions on the number of players a team can lend to the national team.
Marcial was promoted from league officer-in-charge to full-fledged commissioner with a term of three years. He’ll also serve concurrently as PBA media bureau chief, a position he’s held since 2003.
A former statistician during the time of founding PBA commissioner Leo Prieto, Marcial also worked with the league TV coveror Vintage Enterprises before moving over to the Commissioner’s Office during the time of PBA chief Noli Eala.
After serving under four commissioners – Eala, Sonny Barrios, Chito Salud and Chito Narvasa – Marcial was deemed by the league board as the best choice to take the league rein at this time.
“As you know the PBA board has gone through a very difficult time before the opening of this season. And we’re looking for somebody that can put it together and help us heal the process as there will be a lot of changes as we move along,” Vargas said.
“At this time, it’s important to give it to somebody who grew up in the PBA, who understands the PBA, the by-laws; who has been mentored by many PBA commissioners in the past. He’s one who has learned over the years in the PBA,” Vargas also said.
“He’s worked with various types of commissioners, so he’s learned so much. He will bring with him that experience, that demeanor as opposed to getting fresh candidates or going through the process of hiring,” Vargas added.
Thus, the board did away with the search process gone through by the previous commissioners from the time of Eala.
“As we reviewed the names of the candidates in a scenario such as this where we go through a difficult situation, we felt it very appropriate, bigay ng Diyos that we have somebody like Willie,” said Vargas.
The board is already thankful to Marcial to the changes the league made to improve the game.
“The PBA is back, I heard that in social media. We’re thankful to Willie for that. I’m excited to see people in the venue really enjoying the game,” said Vargas.
Later in the day, the Alaska Milk franchise said they abstained from voting “on the basis that the process of interviewing several candidates was not observed.”
Team owner Wilfred Uytengsu, however, said it’s not a vote against Marcial.
“We trust that the new commissioner will act in the best interest of the PBA,” said Uytengsu.