‘No pressure’ as Fajardo-less Beermen resume title defense
CLARK — San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria knows just how massive has the target on his team’s back has become—with cornerstone June Mar Fajardo out, and all other 11 PBA teams sharing the same predicament inside the self-contained environment here.
But he’s sticking to a tried and tested approach as he braces for another go at keeping the Philippine Cup crown on the Beermen’s hands.
“There’s no pressure,” he said as San Miguel braces for its first duel, which is against Rain or Shine at 4 p.m. “I told (the players) to just enjoy the bubble.”
Austria said he is pleased with how his wards have been able to self-govern as they cope with life inside the self-contained zones in Mimosa, and in Angeles City where all of the games will be played.
“Morning and afternoon (they go to work). We’re not forcing anyone [to anything]. I’m happy because if they feel the shortchanged work, they’d say it. If they need rest, they’d say it, too,” he explained.
“There’s constant communication between the coaches and the players—and that has been working for us for the past five years,” he added.
But don’t mistake Austria’s relaxation for cockiness.
He is, in fact, taking notes of other teams’ progress and activities—even alluding to TNT’s own bubble training in Calamba—during the pandemic.
The eight-time champion mentor named NLEX, Alaska, Ginebra, Magnolia, and Tropang Giga, which guns for a second-straight victory in the nightcap against Terrafirma, as the biggest threats to San Miguel’s return trip to the summit.
Austria is simply focused on his team as he believes that timing and proper mind-set will pretty much dictate which team fares well in this whirlwind of a conference.
“Skills, we already have it. What I have been imparting to them is the mind-set,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter whatever preparations you have inside this bubble, without the proper one, everything goes to waste.”
“We know this is a different story. In all of our previous all-Filipino runs, June Mar was present,” said Arwind Santos, the team’s skipper and the league’s last league MVP before Fajardo won it the plum for six straight years.
“But we’re going to defend this to the best of our abilities,” he said.
“We don’t know yet what will happen … but I’m banking on our experience,” Austria said.
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