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Leo Austria on SMB’s early game woes
by rick olivares
Rappler spoke to San Miguel head coach Leo Austria on his Beermen’s early game woes in their semi-finals series with Rain or Shine and the two-time PBA champion coach and former Rookie of the Year took things in stride and cautioned against not giving their tough opponents any credit.
“We might be the defending champions but you have to remember that the core of the Rain or Shine team is a champion one that has been through several finals battles,” underscored Austria the day after his team’s 105-97 Game Two loss. “Plus, they have national players in their line-up so you know subok mga ‘yan.”
Austria was referring to RoS’ Jeff Chan, Paul Lee, Gabe Norwood, Beau Belga, and Chris Tiu who have all served lengthy stints on the national squad. “And they have a multi-champion coach in Yeng Guiao. It is wrong to say, ‘what is wrong with San Miguel’ when Rain or Shine is one of the top teams in the league and this conference.”
SMB’s coach explained his team’s slow start. “It isn’t only in this semi-finals where we started slow. We have played the same all conference long. We have had players injured. The 20-day layoff didn’t help us as we are only finding our rhythm as we go on. But no excuses. We’ll try to solve Rain or Shine’s halfcourt offense.”
"People have pointed out that our players play long minutes,” pointed out the second-year SMB coach. “First of all, our starters played close to if not the same minutes as they did last year when we won two championships. Second, this team is built to play long minutes. When I have June Mar on the bench, after a minute or two, he tells me, ‘coach, okay na ako.’ Sometimes, I ignore him to give the others more playing time, sometimes, I bring him back right away. My players all want to play, but you also have to reward those playing well. Some like Marcio Lassiter just got back from a leave since his wife gave birth. Like I said, it’s is also about getting out rhythm back. Again no excuses. We look forward to Game Three."
Austria nevertheless says he is concerned with the slow starts. “When we played Alaska in the Philippine Cup Finals of last year, we also gave up huge leads. We were lucky enough to rally and defeat them.”
Is it a hint of overconfidence or maybe a quiet confidence that the team can overcome any deficit whenever they like?
“Not at all,” dispelled Austria. “We don’t look at it that way. We just think the other team does better than us in the first half. We made some shots but missed a lot that allowed Rain or Shine to get another big lead.”