Ginebra San Miguel, long the most popular team in the PBA, is going through an overhaul never before seen in team history. Former figures thought untouchable are now gone - like long time playing coach and team icon Robert Jaworski. Next to go was former franchise player Noli Locsin. Third and probably most noticeable is the departure of the tallest and arguably the best center in the league, Marlou Aquino. What's going on at Ginebra? Why the major changes?
Ginebra has always been a sister team of San Miguel Beer but despite being the "less-preferred" of the two, has actually surpassed its richer sister in terms of popularity. Even if the Ginebra franchise has significantly less championship trophies, the presence of Robert Jaworski and the reputation of the team as one made up of cast-aways and "masa" players has enabled it to touch fans in a unique way. Also, the influential Jaworski has always believed in loyalty - which translated to very little roster changes via trades during his tenure. Ginebra's new players more often than not were rookie draft picks or signed free-agents. This resulted in most players having long careers with the Gins, making it easy on fans to learn to love these players.
San Miguel Beer on the other hand, developed an aura of class and finesse. Although this has also drawn a good number of fans, this same aura made the team unattractive to those looking for players to identify themselves with -- something more blue collar.
Signs of the beginning of the end for the Ginebra franchise was the hiring of Allan Caidic, a Ron Jacobs product, as assistant coach. This was done without the knowledge of Jaworski, something never done before. This was an obvious sign of management moving in and taking control of the team, whereas in the past all decisions involving the Gins had to get Jaworski's approval. This act resulted in Jaworski's resignation - expectedly. Shortly after this, Ron Jacobs was tasked to rebuild the team.
Ron Jacobs is recognized as one of the reasons why Philippine basketball stands where it is now. He coached several highly-successful teams, and developed players like Allan Caidic and Yves Dignadice. He has a longstanding relationship with the San Miguel franchise, and his latest victories are San Miguel's winning 2 out of 3conferences in 1999, even if on paper he wasn't the coach of San Miguel. Everybody knows San Miguel is Ron Jacobs, and Ron Jacobs is San Miguel. Ron Jacobs is a true basketball figure and this article is not meant as a slur, but it is obvious that his loyalties are with San Miguel. With Jacobs in charge of Ginebra's rebuilding, it isn't hard to imagine players moving between SMB and Ginebra - but to who's advantage? Do I really have to ask that?
Case in point - Chris Bolado. He was part of Ginebra's championship team and blossomed under Jaworski as Aquino's backup. San Miguel on the other hand, was lacking a backup center at the time. Lo and behold, Bolado transferred to SMB.
Case in point - Zandro Limpot. Limpot used to play for the very successful Magnolia franchise in the PBL. Who better to get in exchange for Aquino?
Case in point - Allan Caidic. Appointed head coach to replace Jaworski. Caidic is widely recognized as a Jacobs product. Do you think he will raise his voice and complain when SMB starts raiding Ginebra's roster?
It's sad to imagine what the Ginebra franchise is set to become. The signs are there...but I hope I'm wrong.