Mon. May 23rd, 2022


Members of the farewelling Alaska Aces get a shower of confetti and a final buzzer sounded by PBA commissioner Willie Marcial (back turned, center) after the franchise played its last PBA game, a quarterfinals loss to NLEX in the Governors’ Cup. STORY: Sale of Alaska franchise ‘signed and sealed’

Members of the farewelling Alaska Aces get a shower of confetti and a final buzzer sounded by PBA commissioner Willie Marcial (back turned, center) after the franchise played its last PBA game, a quarterfinals loss to NLEX in the Governors’ Cup. —PBA IMAGES

MANILA, Philippines — Jeffrey Cariaso, now a coach, and Jeron Teng, a young franchise player, heard the final buzzer as members of Alaska on Saturday night when the Aces made their exit in the Governors’ Cup that ended the franchise’s glorious 36-year participation in the PBA.

After 14 titles that included a rare Triple Crown sweep in 1996 and playing with honor and integrity all those years, Alaska bowed out — not in a blaze of glory that it hoped for — but still had a long list of achievements that immortalized itself as one of the greatest franchises Asia’s pioneering professional cage league has ever seen.

And with disbandment comes uncertainty for the pieces that will be left.

But count on the nucleus of Alaska, and even its coaching staff, to be present — together — when the next PBA season opens.

An Inquirer source on Sunday said the sale of the franchise is more or less “signed and sealed,” and that one of the items that team owner Wilfred Uytengsu insisted on is for the new team to keep the core of the Aces and the coaching staff that made sure the Alaska culture was in there during the Aces’ swan song.

The source refused to identify the company, though, as the sale needs to be formally approved by the league’s board of governors.

Commissioner’s Office has say

Another thing that the buyer would need is get the nod of the Commissioner’s Office, which will do due diligence on its financial statement to know if the new team has the resources to sustain competitive PBA participation.

Uytengsu announced the disbandment of the Aces last Feb. 16 and the day after, five companies immediately showed interest in purchasing the franchise.

A bare PBA franchise is valued at at least P100 million, but getting the nucleus of the team that consistently makes the playoffs certainly jacked up the price tag.

Meanwhile, Cariaso, who was a rookie when the then-Milkmen completed just the league’s fourth Grand Slam at that time, did not hide his emotions after coaching his last game for Alaska, a 96-80 loss to NLEX that had the Road Warriors advancing to the Final Four of the import-spiced conference starting on Wednesday.

“I did not have this [exit] planned today,” said Cariaso with a long face and a somber tone. “I’m at a little loss for words, even in that postgame presser, if you noticed. But again, this [thing ending] is our reality.”

Alaska actually extended its farewell tour by a game after trouncing the Road Warriors in the opening skirmish of their quarterfinal series last Thursday. NLEX had a twice-to-beat edge, and not even the dogged determination of Teng and Co. could overhaul that.

Announcement this week

“Congrats to NLEX, they did a good job. Moving forward, we just have to see what happens,” said Cariaso. “We don’t know what’s going to happen next. But I think this week is going to be huge.”

This week is when the league is expected to announce the new team and what concessions the buyer got in the deal.

“The final, you know, dotted line, I don’t know where [we are at that],” Cariaso said. “Again, we’re asking for a little patience, it’s a weird time right now, but I wish I could let you guys know soon.”

Usually, disbanding teams trade their marquee players for other considerations before selling their franchises bare, but in keeping with the Alaska mantra of “#WeNotMe,” Uytengsu, according to the highly-placed source, made sure that everyone is taken care of.

“That’s the plan [to keep the core], but you never know [in the long run],” the source said.

PBA commissioner Willie Marcial paid tribute to the franchise with a final buzzer ceremony right after the game on Saturday, with confetti showering the members of the team and a swathe of Alaska faithful donning red shirts standing in applause.

The fans have certainly heard the last of the Alaska franchise on Saturday night, but if things fall into place, that winning culture will remain in the league for the next few — if not many more — years to come.

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