Jimmy Alapag’s head coaching duties over Renaldo Balkman may have just officially begun on Wednesday but the seeds were planted years before the two were on the same team together.
The two had a conversation back in the 2014 Fiba World Cup when the Philippines faced Puerto Rico in the group stages, three years before Alapag ended up calling the shots Alab Pilipinas, which tapped Balkman as its new import, at the ASEAN Basketball League.
“When I saw him in Spain, he said ‘if you ever get to coaching and the door opens for me to come back to Manila, I’m willing to play for you,’” said Alapag after Alab dispatched Westports Malaysia, 90-79, Wednesday night in the controversial import’s first game.
In a sense, Alapag gave Balkman a chance at redemption after the Puerto Rican international got banned from the PBA in 2013 after choking then Petron teammate Arwind Santos in a scuffle.
Balkman said having Alapag, the same man he defeated in Puerto Rico’s 77-73 victory over the Philippines back in the 2014 World Cup, as a coach was a blessing bestowed upon him.
“I played against him as a player, now he’s my coach. It’s a blessing for me to be given that chance,” said Balkman as he finished with 17 points, 11 rebounds, four steals, and two blocks.
“We talked about it a couple of years ago. He always told me that if he had a chance to coach me he would and that’s what happened. Right now, I’m still thanking him because he kept his promise so I’ll keep my promise of winning him a championship.”
Alapag said he hopes Balkman will be able to leave a better impression in Philippine basketball this time around and what happened in 2013 will be a thing of the past.
“What happened years back was really an isolated incident, and at the end of the day no one’s perfect,” said Alapag. “We all make mistakes and he’s said numerous times he’s regretful of what happened. Hopefully this issue will be dead and he’ll be able to make a much better impression here in the Philippines.”
And with Alapag burying the 2013 incident, Balkman did too.
“It felt good, the reception, and I didn’t expect it. The past is the past,” said Balkman. “I did lots of things since then and tonight, it wasn’t on my mind, it wasn’t on my head. I just went out there to play basketball.”