Hungry for more: Austria, Beermen set sights on next jewel
Leo Austria is aware that some netizens remain skeptical of his coaching acumen even after winning nine Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) championships, including Sunday’s Philippine Cup triumph.
But Austria will be the first to admit to himself that he could have not done it without the help of his players, who were instrumental in regaining the Beermen’s place back in the winner’s circle after a three-year wait.
“That’s why I keep on telling why I’m so lucky because the players make me look good,” Austria said as he and San Miguel set their sights on chasing for more glory after its 119-97 win in the All-Filipino title clincher over TNT.
San Miguel’s championship that was claimed before 15,915 fans at Smart Araneta Coliseum was its first since the 2019 Commissioner’s Cup while also regaining claim of the league’s most prestigious trophy they last tasted that same year.
Now, the Beermen hope to continue their run into the midseason Commissioner’s Cup, where they’ll face an acid test against imports not taller than 6-foot-10 plus a guest team in the East Asia Super League’s (EASL) Bay Area Dragons.
Speaking of the EASL, San Miguel will also divide its attention on the Commissioner’s Cup and the continental league which will finally push through next month.
By winning the Philippine Cup, the Beermen will play in Group A along with South Korea’s Korean Basketball League team Anyang KGC, Taiwan’s P.League champion Taipei Fubon Braves and Japan’s B.League side Ryukyu Golden Kings.
San Miguel will parade former NBA first round draft pick Thomas Robinson, whom it hopes would live up to his resume to help the squad make it two in a row for the season and give Austria and his gang another crack at the Grand Slam.
Comm’s Cup import
“I saw his game in Puerto Rico and South Korea and I think he would be a big help to our team because we have another big man other than June Mar [Fajardo] so it’s an advantage for us,” said Austria.
“But we don’t know yet how Robinson will fit in, but as far as his credentials are concerned, he is somebody [we can] rely on,” Austria added.
Austria also hopes to see the prime movers in the All-Filipino run continue their form into the two succeeding tournaments, namely Honda PBA Press Corps Finals Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo, CJ Perez, Simon Enciso, Jericho Cruz, Chris Ross, Marcio Lassiter, Mo Tautuaa and Vic Manuel.
Perez, Enciso, Tautuaa and Manuel won their first PBA championships, but are determined to build on the team’s success, so are Ross and Lassiter who each have the same number of titles as their coach.
Then there’s Fajardo, who has regained his status as the league’s premier player following a conference in which he also took Best Player of the Conference honors.
“With the experience of the players, especially the new ones in winning a championship, I think they are confident that they can do it again,” said Austria.
Perez, whose seven of his 25 points in the fourth came during a stunning 17-0 run that turned an 89-84 deficit into a commanding 101-89 lead heading into the final six minutes of Game 7, echoed his coach’s belief.
“I finally achieved my dream of winning a championship,” he said. “But it does not end here. I will continue to work hard so I can win more championships.” INQ
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