Maybe all Leo needs is a ‘Slam’
There’s no doubt Tim Cone is a worthy choice as coach of Gilas Pilipinas in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games the country will host barely two months from now, but he’s not the best coaching mind in the land today.
With eight championships in 10 finals in the Philippine Basketball Association, including a record five straight in the league’s centerpiece Philippine Cup, Leo Austria simply has no peer as coach since joining the San Miguel Corp. PBA franchise in 2014 after a winning stint for another SMB team in the Asian Basketball League a year earlier.
But the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas simply ignores Austria’s accomplishments in favor of the celebrated coaches, some of whom rant and rave and get thrown out for disputing referees’ calls.
Perhaps, all that Austria needs to do to finally impress the national basketball leadership of his coaching genius is to complete a second grand slam for SMB by ruling the ongoing Governors’ Cup.
The Beermen, fresh from a fourth place finish in the East Asia League Terrific 12 tournament in Macau, drew 102 points from four players in their debut last week and blasted the Phoenix Fuel Masters, 130-119. SMB import Dez Wells shot 42 points in a performance that Phoenix coach Louie Alas said reminded him of Tony Harris, who owns the PBA record for most points in a game of 105 which he set while playing for the now defunct Swift team in 1992.
Austria had taken a first crack at SMB’s second PBA title sweep in 2017 but was denied by Cone with Barangay Ginebra San Miguel eliminating the Beermen in their quarterfinal playoff. Cone also owns a grand slam for the SMC franchise through the San Mig Coffee team in 2013 with Norman Black, now the Meralco Bolts coach, credited with the first SMB grand slam in 1989.
Incidentally, Cone, winner of four titles in his last five finals for Ginebra, took an embarrassing loss from Phoenix in his first game since his appointment as Gilas coach. After an impressive 102-83 debut against the Alaska Aces, Ginebra absorbed a 103-101 stunner from Phoenix, which led by as much as 23 points.
The TNT KaTropa, beaten for the Commissioner’s Cup title by the Beermen last August, looked a likely title contender again with another super import in KJ McDaniels after falling short in their last campaign with NBA veteran Terrence Jones.
McDaniels unloaded 41 points as TNT blasted Blackwater Elite, 135-107 then scored 37 as the KaTropa rolled back the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.