Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Leo Austria on San Miguel & being back in the finals

This appears on the PBA website.

Leo Austria on San Miguel & being back in the finals
by rick olivares pic by nuki sabio

In his third PBA coaching stop (the first was with Shell and the second with Welcoat) this time with the San Miguel Beermen, Leo Austria is finally in the finals of the Philippine Cup, the most prestigious tournament of Asia’s first professional basketball league.

Austria admitted to being excited about being back in the finals. As a player, he only won one title and that was with Shell during the First Conference of 1990 (where AƱejo players infamously walked out in Game Six handing the title to Shell in a 4-2 series win). Conversely, he was a part of that Shell team that was the first in PBA history to surrender a 3-1 series lead and lose (also to Ginebra that exacted revenge one year later).

The former Lyceum shooting guard had better luck as head coach in winning championships. In the now defunct, Philippine Basketball League, he led the Welcoat Dragons to the 2002 Challenge Cup crown. With the San Miguel Beermen, they copped the 2013 Asean Basketball League championship.

“Hopefully, I can lead San Miguel to a PBA championship as well,” wished Austria who was a former PBA Rookie of the Year (1985).

“When I was coaching Shell, it was in their post-glory years. Wala na sila Benjie Paras at Ronnie Magsanoc,” said Austria. “Pero we made the semifinals for two conferences before the team went on a leave of absence. It was difficult trying to make do with not enough talented players. But I was proud of that team. When Welcoat purchased the franchise of Shell, it was an expansion club with no key players. Parang ang hirap umangat ng team. Now with San Miguel, marami ngang stars daw pero ibang challenge din yan.”

Going back to the basics
I wanted team play and to define their roles. Watching them before I took over, parang walang tiwala sa ibang teammates. Yung sinasabi nilang trademark passing game ng San Miguel ng 1980s at 1990s, wala na. So we went back to basics. One-on-one drills, two-on-three drills. Lahat. Napansin ko na ino-observe ako ng mga Fil-Ams. Do they need this? Why do they need to do this? Yun siguro yung mga nasa isip nila. A lot of those drills emphasize team work and team play. Reminders lang. But they get the idea.

I needed them to make the pass to an open teammate and to become a team. Hindi pwede sa akin nagsasabay yung mga player na pareho pwesto o trabaho sa team. Magkakagulo lang yan. So now when I say, ‘Ronald (Tubid), sub in ka na,” alam niya na kung sino papalitan niya.”

Being goal-oriented
I am aware that medyo maikli yung tenure ng coaches. Some feel na if you put in a system, it will take a while for all the players to buy into it. Some might feel na hindi kaya so they will stick to what there is. I cannot compromise myself. I have always coached a certain way whether with Shell or Welcoat or with Adamson. I will stick to what I know. Yung goal namin initially was to make the top four. Doon pa lang happy na ako. Swerte rin we have made better progress than that. Doon muna tayo sa siguradong goals. Kasi pag inasam mo yung mahirap abutin problema yan sa accountability.

Now nandito na tayo sa finals, we will not settle for anything less than a championship. Si Alex (Cabagnot) at Arwind (Santos) pa lang ang nakatikim ng championship dito. Sana after this lahat masaya.

This is San Miguel Beer
One of the best things that (former head coach) Gee Abanilla did was to allow the fans to once more watch team practices (it used to be closed door). We needed to win back the fans. We continued that. I also remind my players that they also represent the brand. So when people ask for photographs, they should be thankful because it increases both the team’s and their popularity.

Having said that, I work hard to make sure that there are no cliques. You know the usual, Fil-Ams dito, locals doon. It cannot be that way. Everyone has to be together. San Miguel Beermen kami. Not anything else. It is nice to see everyone cheering each other on now. Helping one another.

On the Finals versus Alaska
Excited ako. Sila Coach Alex (Compton) and Louie (Alas) are my peers. Mga kasabayan ko mga yan. They are very very good. Alaska found an identity for themselves that is 180 degrees different from what everyone used to know them for. And they are comfortable with that pressing and physical and high energy defensive game of theirs.

We will go into the finals not to counter their game but to impose our game.

1 comment:

  1. A father, a coach, a good person....