PBA: Cariaso challenges his players to go out with a bang—and a 15th crown
MANILA, Philippines–There are those who would ask why Alaska would bother shooting for a championship in the Philippine Basketball Association when it hasn’t won a title in nearly a decade and when it has been listed—by optimists—as a dark horse contender.
Jeffrey Cariaso has spent a third of his life with the franchise. He has helped the squad win titles, collecting individual accolades along the way, and responded several times to pilot the team each time it plunged into a rebuild.
He has a different question: Why not?
“Part of my talk [on Wednesday] was just really talking to [the players] about us staying in the moment and us still having this opportunity to win our 15th championship. Why can’t we go out in a bang? Why can’t we strive for this last one before we go? Why not?” he said shortly after Alaska’s 80-74 victory over Rain or Shine last Friday.
It was the fourth victory in six games for the Aces in the ongoing Governors’ Cup. More importantly, it was the first victory of a six-game farewell tour the franchise is currently in, after announcing that it will fold after this tournament.
If all goes according to plan, Alaska could still add more games to that tour. If things really fall into place, the Aces could reach the championship and—in a dramatic finish that could only be scripted in movies—win their final game there.
Cariaso understands that not only will the planets need to align for this one, but his crew will need to scale mountains.
But he is steadfast in the belief that the journey will be just as fulfilling.
“Of course it’s not going to be easy. There’s 11 other teams striving for that same goal. We understand that, we understand the hard work ahead of us. But again our last [time] together, why not go on and do it. If anything, it will make everyone look good. So that’s how we look at it,” he said.
Personally, Cariaso is looking at the job as an opportunity to celebrate a family that has given him shelter and company for over a decade. It is, after all, something that doesn’t come by too often.
“Altogether, this is my 15th year with Alaska—as a player and as a coach,” he said. “So how special is it that I have this chance? This opportunity to coach the team that drafted me, [that I] played for?”
“I put my heart and soul into this team as a player. So I’m trying to do the same as a coach,” he added.
As things stand, Alaska is on pace for a playoff appearance with its 4-2 card. It faces Terrafirma next, before running into a finishing gauntlet: NLEX, Meralco, Phoenix and league-leading Magnolia.
Two scenarios are shaping up for the Aces’ personnel in its impending disbandment. Either its players and staff be carried over into a new team under the banner of a new company, or its crew be broken down and—at best—scattered among the other member clubs of the league.
But Cariaso isn’t dwelling on that yet. In fact, he has been to busy plotting this final championship chase that he has yet to check in with his brothers-at-arms during his playing years. He admitted that there’s still a boatload of messages he has yet to read or answer.
“I was just really focused on the game. But I think we will all have time for that after,” he said. “Right now, it’s Terrafirma [that’s next] on our list.”