ALLIES for the most part of their careers, it was strange seeing Louie Alas and Alex Compton standing on opposite ends of the floor and going up against each other on Tuesday.
Better get used to it.
The Phoenix Fuel Masters turned back the Alaska Aces, 89-85, in a preseason pocket tournament at the Upper Deck Sports Center in Ortigas in the first ever coaching duel between Alas and Compton since the two parted waysafter Alas accepted the offer to be Phoenix coach.
It was a hard-fought, grind out match between the Fuel Masters and the Aces, typical of the way Compton and Alas wanted games to be played while both were still doing things on the bench for Alaska.
“He was my coach during my best year as a player, and I know how good he is at what he does,” said Compton of Alas, who was his very first mentor when he first played in the country for the Manila Metrostars in the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA) where they won a championship together.
“I will always be grateful to him and we have shared a lot of things over the years,” added Compton as he reminisced his partnership with his former coach. “I know he will do a phenomenal job at Phoenix.”
The game was tied at 71midway through the final period, until the Fuel Masters uncorked an 11-0 blast anchored on Matthew Wright and new acquisitions Justine Chua and LA Revilla to pull away for good, 82-71 entering the final two minutes.
Alas was assisted in the sidelines by chief deputy Topex Robinson, the current Lyceum coach and former Alaska deputy, who Alas brought along with him at Phoenix.
Compton said he was proud and happy seeing his former coaching staff implementing their own program with another ballclub.
“Coach Topex has also proven himself as a great young coach, both as an assistant with us and most recently, with the incredible job he has done at Lyceum,” said Compton, 43. “To become associate head coach of Phoenix under coach Louie – the same position we had given coach Louie here at Alaska – is really a tremendous opportunity for him.”
Such had been the contributions of the two for Compton since he took over the Alaska reins in 2014 that when both left for Phoenix, the Aces had to tap not just two, but three replacements in Eric Altamirano, Danny Ildefonso, and Tony dela Cruz.
While a little sad letting go of his two trusted lieutenants, Compton was happy Alas and Robinson were finally given the break they really deserved.
“When coach Louie was offered the head coaching job, I was very happy for him,” he said of his 53-year-old friend with whom he shared a string of runner-up finishes with the Aces. “He has been such a help to me personally as the head coach of Alaska, especially when I took over. It was my first time ever to be a head coach.”
They may belong to the opposite side now, but Alas and Robinson will always be close friends, stressed Compton.
“These guys are lifelong friends, and when really good opportunities come the way of those who have faithfully served you, it is hard to do anything but rejoice for them and their families,” said the Philippine-born American coach.
“We will certainly miss them both, while simultaneously being excited for them and the new challenge that awaits them.”