Can the Columbian Dyip go the extra mile?

The Columbian Dyip is the first Philippine Basketball Association team that is represented by an imaginary product.

Scour the internet for a brochure of this Dyip and you will be hard-pressed to find one. The squad cannot use the Kia brand anymore after the Ayala group acquired the majority share of the local distribution rights for the Korean automotive company. That explains the hasty change of team name.

But that’s not the only imaginary aspect in the franchise’s short but shaky history. In just four years, their timeline is littered with imaginary job tenures, imaginary coaching positions, and imaginary long-term plans. Barring any miracle, it seems that the squad is crashing towards a dead end.

High hopes coming to a halt

Kia has been synonymous with sporting success. After all, they have sponsored major events such as the French Open, the FIFA World Cup, the FIBA Asia Championship, and the NBA All-Star Game. That’s why there was much optimism when Columbian Autocar Corporation joined as a PBA expansion team. A competition to determine the team’s name was held and it was announced hours before the 2014 PBA Draft that they will carry the Kia Sorento moniker.

More than a month after the new team participated in an expansion draft, they were poised to pick 11th in the rookie draft. Solid role players such as Rome Dela Rosa, Brian Heruela, and John Pinto were still available. But in what is widely considered as a commercial move and not a basketball one, they selected eight-division boxing world champion Manny Pacquiao. Two months prior the selection, Pacquiao was even named as the team’s head coach despite having no established experience.

As expected, the team struggled through their first season. They had a cumulative record of 10 wins and 23 losses while finishing as high as ninth place in any of the three conferences. But beyond the standings, the squad was plagued with much deeper problems caused by unethical management practices. Contractual obligations were not honored and players were miserably treated.

Revolving door rotation

Making it to the PBA is one thing, but staying in the league is another. That’s why those who have played in the big league treat contracts as sacred. But what if they are forced to take unfavorable deals because they have nowhere to go and people to feed? That’s the depressing plight of Kia’s players as told by the few who had the courage to reveal the fraudulent moves made by the front office.

It’s no wonder that in four seasons, 69 players have donned the Kia/Mahindra/Columbian colors. Compare that to the 47 from Blackwater, even though both teams entered the league the same time. Seems like they are keeping up with the rate by which they change team names. It would be understandable if the roster shake-offs were sound business decisions. But for the case of Kia, it was the contrary.

Alex Nuyles once signed a one-year extension with the squad. However, he took his frustration to social media when he found out that the deal was invalid. Thus, he wasn’t able to receive his salaries. After suffering an injury in May 2015, Mike Burtscher was neither sent to the hospital for treatment nor paid even though he was still under contract. Like Nuyles, he too posted his thoughts on Facebook. Hans Thiele was duped to sign a contract for less money but with a promise of a car and a condo unit. The promise was not honored for there was another deal stating that the provisions can be taken away if they are not in the active roster. Other players signed contracts but were bought out for lower amounts.

The mishandling of Glenn Capacio

Eight-time PBA All-Defensive Team member Glenn Capacio was hired as Kia’s lead assistant coach. But given the numerous obligations of the nominal head coach Pacquiao, the assistant was confused of his role for he was doing all of the head coaching work. Capacio was eventually fired by the management due to “gross professional or personal misconduct” because disagreements with team management regarding changes in the active and reserve players.

The five-time PBA champion also revealed that his contract was being bought for three months’ worth of money even though he claimed that he had 19 months left. He sought help from Commissioner Chito Salud who told that they can only look after the welfare of the players. Nowhere to go, he filed a case with the National Labor Relations Commission, a quasi-judicial agency under the Department of Labor and Employment. However, the NLRC dismissed the case due to the lack of employer-employee agreement.

Trading away top draft picks

Save for Kevin Durant, the Golden State Warriors understand that draft picks are building blocks to a better future. Either the Columbian franchise doesn’t understand this or something fishy is happening days before or after PBA Rookie Drafts. In 2015, they struck gold by drafting Troy Rosario with the second overall selection. But two days after the draft, the former National University Bulldog was traded to Talk N’ Text via a three-way trade with NLEX. Rosario would have been a dependable stretch power forward who can also spend some minutes manning the paint if needed.

Then there’s the much-maligned handling of the top overall selection in the 2017 draft. The consensus has it that the pick will be used for Filipino-German Christian Standhardinger. But in what came to be a shocker of a move, the franchise traded the pick to San Miguel in exchange for Ronald Tubid, Jay-R Reyes, Rashawn McCarthy and the Beermen’s 2019 first round draft choice which will probably be in the 10th-12th pick range. McCarthy is a revelation while Tubid’s best days as a player are behind him. Meanwhile, Jay-R Reyes is on the inactive list.

The landscape of Columbian would be much different if they had Rosario and Standhardinger in tow. It gives them stability in the front court especially in rebounding and second chance points. If they find guards that complemented their game, they would have been a legitimate contender in the near future. If they started winning more games, they could have stepped into the limelight and their fan base could have been built. Instead, both big men are thriving with their current ball clubs which were already formidable before they arrived. It’s no wonder the Dyip have been called out for transactions that helped already strong teams.

Dyip’s last stop is right around the corner

Columbian’s PBA history isn’t all tragedy. They did reach the quarterfinals of the 2016 Governors Cup with import James White. However, they were trashed by the Meralco Bolts, 105-82, to end heir campaign. Their 3-3 start in the 2018 Commissioner’s Cup was met with much optimism. But ironically, they then lost two straight to TNT and San Miguel to bring their slate to 3-5.

But with the team management losing majority stake in their core business which pays for the team’s upkeep, a tenuous fan base that paid attention due to Pacquiao, and hazy long-term plans, it won’t be surprising if the Columbian Dyip ceases to operate by the end of the 43rd PBA season. That the front office is already looking for a buyer of their PBA franchise is no breaking news since the writings on the wall can be traced back to when they started.

When the squad leaves the league for good, their brief existence is a cautionary tale for aspiring owners, coaches, and players alike. The injustices levied to their players may give rise to a PBA Players Association. Coaches might form their own union too for protection. When you have had two head coaches – an honorary one and one assistant who acts as such – then you have none. Other teams are waiting for the inevitable so they can get their hands on some viable players.

So, raise a glass for the Columbian Dyip while they are at it because the dead end of their journey is imminent. If you personally know any of the 929 people (and counting) who liked their official Facebook page and the 2,282 fans who are part of their two biggest Facebook groups, send them your condolences or lament with them. Their squad is running on gas from the reserve tank. It will give them a few more miles. But ultimately, their engine will sputter and become a miserable footnote in the PBA’s storied history.

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