Basketball & Politics: A disgusting mix

17 09 2007

Remember the mess Philippine basketball was in a few years back? When basketball officials fought among each other to gain control of the BAP? The differences between these officials directly resulted in poor performances of our national teams. The situation was so ugly that the FIBA suspended the country from the world body and from international competition.

Early this year, the suspension was lifted and Philippine basketball is on back on the road to international respectability. However, did we really learn something out of it?

If we look at how UP basketball is being handled, then the UP community must have missed the point. And I would like to advice the UP community to be vigilant. To be more cautious.

According to a recent Malaya article (Sept. 8), there are at least four factions in the UP community that is calling for coach Joe Lipa’s ouster. The article also cited dissent within the team, and that team funds were misused.

In my previous article, Lipa assumed full responsibility for the team’s performance and added that though this season’s record can’t be argued for, he hopes that the community sees the bigger picture that the team is in rebuilding mode. Furthermore, Lipa denied that funds were misused and that they had limited resources to begin with.

As for dissent within the team, the players themselves showed their support to the embattled coach by taping “I love Joe” on their jerseys. Lipa also admitted that one deputy did spread not so good words regarding the team, and was saddened by it.

But how did such report reach media, and written on without getting Lipa’s side? Well, according to scribes covering the UAAP, they received a call from someone who introduced himself as “a concerned UP alumnus”. In a low voice, the caller asked the writers to write negative stories about Lipa.

A classic example of rumor-mongering against the second year coach, who was given three years to lead UP. The same coach who steered the school to its only UAAP title in 1986.

Who then are the people behind these moves?

One person involved in the “ouster plot” once claimed to be the president of the “legitimate” national sports association for basketball during its darkest hour. He runs a highly commercialized basketball clinic, a former coach and is currently involved with a group of referees whose performances are highly questionable in both the UAAP and the NCAA.

Another person in the plot is a businessman who was involved in a successful high school basketball program. This person is respected in the community and has personally taken care some of the players’ needs. These two mentioned are just some of the campus personalities in the never ending saga of basketball and politics in UP.

Interestingly, both personalities were also critical of Lipa’s predecessor, Lito Vergara. And it seems that whoever the coach is, he will have to contend will different basketball factions in UP and watch his back too.

Lipa’s tenure as head coach is up to the end of UAAP Season 71. But as early as the second or third game of this season, critics have been aggressively calling for his ouster. Even the school’s athletic director, who is closely identified with the basketball clinic I mentioned, is acting as if Lipa is on his way out since two weeks back.

More so, it is also reported that the coach of the UP women’s team, Eric Castro, is also in danger of losing his job even though the team has entered the finals, and has been performing consistently in the past four years. Castro is a known Lipa associate.

Now, if this is not politics, then I don’t know what it is. Why are these people in a hurry to replace Lipa? Is it because they can’t swallow the rebuilding mode of the team? Or is it because next year is UP’s centennial and the team is supposed to be contenders at that time? Why resort to lies and half truths to justify their actions? And why involve a consistent performer such as Castro? Is it because of his close ties with Lipa?

If the Malaya article is accurate, then having four different factions means having four different agendas. Should one faction manage to succeed the present set up, who’s to say that the three other factions will hold their peace? I’ve seen it happen during Vergara’s time, and now with Lipa.

For a university that has a proud tradition of excellence, I just hope its community will rise above petty politics, especially when talking about basketball. I hope these people don’t disguise their desire to change things with personal interest. I hope when they decide to reinvent the wheel, I just do hope it is for a good cause. For at the end of the day, it will remain just a game.

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