Leo Austria lauds Beermen’s sacrifices in chase for another title
For San Miguel coach Leo Austria, the team’s collective sacrifice has been the biggest key in helping his squad solve the bane that is the Commissioner’s Cup.
“There’s a lot of sacrificing for this team,” he said. “We have to win and we have to make and take sacrifices, and we have to make adjustments during the game which will help us get the win.”
One of Austria’s strategies was to limit the minutes of his top guys Arwind Santos, who usually leads the second unit, and reigning MVP June Mar Fajardo.
“Arwind is always off the bench, averaging only 20 minutes per game, which is unusual for him. June Mar is a very important piece of our team, but this is an import-laden conference and (Joshua) Smith always has the advantage against him, so we have to make things happen,” he said.
Luckily, those adjustments paid off as the Beermen trotted out their best game in the series with a dominating 115-91 Game 6 victory over TNT to secure the 2017 PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
San Miguel has always struggled in this mid-season conference, but Austria and his players managed to turn their failed bids in the past two seasons into lessons learned.
“I think we’ve learned a lot of things from that. There’s so many things happening in the team that sometimes it’s beyond our control. And that’s the thing, we don’t want to be affected with those issues anymore,” he said. “We made it a point that the players should cooperate and should be disciplined, they should know what kind of system we’re running, and because of our experience, we are able to give a solution to the problems we are facing.”
Austria is now 5-for-5 in the Finals since taking over for San Miguel, and after winning a second straight title this year, talking about the Grand Slam is inevitable.
But the affable mentor would rather cherish this championship first before thinking about the season-ending Governors’ Cup.
“We’re not thinking yet of the Grand Slam. We understand that it’s in the mind of so many people, but it’s a long shot so we have to be ready and prepare hard for this,” he said. “There are so many teams which built their team and they’re almost there, but our experience is there, they know how to win, they understand how to win. And in a situation like this, they understand what to do.”