WHAT a difference six weeks can make for Alaska and coach Alex Compton.
After an underwhelming season in the PBA, the Aces seem to be mentally and physically prepared to reclaim lost glory in the upcoming season – thanks to a rare long break.
After four finals appearances in the last two years, the grind appeared to have taken its toll on the Aces last season. Although they finished second in the eliminations of the last Philippine Cup, they wasted their twice-to-beat advantage to eventual losing finalist Ginebra.
Then they missed the playoffs the last two conferences, at one point seeing them lose a franchise-worst 14 straight games.
“I think we're all refreshed,” Compton said in a chat with SPIN.ph after practice on Monday. “Essentially, you play four conferences in a row and then you kind of seem to keep hitting your head on the same wall...The Governors' Cup of 2016 was close to the all-Filipino, so it become almost like four conferences in a row, so there wasn't really a break, and there's a mental aspect that can get tiring. None of that is an excuse.”
“It was a real weight on us,” he continued. “(But) I think we have a much more positive spirit about us. I think the break was really good. I am actually really excited.
“Excitement doesn't win a championship, but I'm really excited for our team and just things that I believe are going to happen,” he continued.
While the Aces as a unit enjoyed a layoff of a month and a half, Compton was more than content with three-plus weeks he spent with his parents in his native Madison, Wisconsin where he brought his kids along.
“Yung mga anak ko kasi, yun lang yung mga apo ng magulang ko, so we just stayed in the house, let them spend time, nothing fancy,” the American mentor, who's a Filipino by heart, said. “It's really nice to see my kids connect with my parents.”
Still, Compton couldn't help but have basketball for dinner as they he went to a Bucks game with Aces governor Dickie Bachmann and NBA Philippines official Carlo Singson.
“I tried as much as I could to shut my brain off to basketball, but it doesn't always work,” Compton said with a smile. “You can't always shut if off. But it was really refreshing.”
“It was really more about time with the family. There was nowhere to rush to” he was quick to add.
Asked if the US trip helped him be refreshed after a season where some fans blamed him for the team's downfall, Compton answered in the positive.
“Right now, I feel better,” Compton said. “I haven't felt this positive and excited in a while. I'm having fun right now and it's not a statement about a guarantees about what we're going to do, but I'm having fun. I feel refreshed. I don't feel stressed. I'm really looking forward to the future.”
“And it will be fun when Gilas is done with their games – that hopefully they'll sweep – to get Calvin and Bryan back then have our complete lineup we can work on,” he added.
Compton is enjoying so much that he's hardly concerned of the uncertainty surrounding the league over the ongoing board impasse.
“I'm just going to coach and teach my guys and try to get us better and trust the board to work that stuff out,” Compton said. “I'm having too much fun in practice to worry about what those guys are discussing in the board room. We'll just follow their lead and we'll keep practicing.”