ALASKA coach Alex Compton and Magnolia coach Chito Victolero were former partners in the Manila Metrostars' backcourt in the Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA).
Now they'll be gunning for a first-ever PBA crown at the expense of the other.
“I’m very happy for Alex kasi from the start, kami ‘yung partner nung first time niya maglaro sa Manila. Kaming dalawa ‘yung backcourt,” said Victolero, days before Magnolia and Alaska clash in the PBA Governors Cup Finals.
Compton still vividly remembers his first day of practice with the Metrostars.
“January 14 (1998) is the date,” said Compton, an American born in the Philippines. “First practice sa Pilipinas. Sina coach Chito, parang leader talaga. Kaming mga point guard, medyo makulit, medyo madaldal. Tuwang-tuwa ako na naging teammates at naging kakampi ko.”
Compton recalled one incident during that season where both he and Victolero suffered a concussion.
“May history kami na pareho kami nagkaroon ng concussion sa isang game. Laguna. Nagising kami sa ospital. Hindi ko na maalala kung anong ospital pero pag-gising ko, katabi ko si Chito, knockout pa rin siya,” Compton said.
Compton and Victolero also shared heartache during the 1998 season where they lost to the Ato Agustin-led Pampanga Dragons in the Northern Conference finals.
“Sayang din. Muntik kami nag-champion,” Compton said.
Their partnership lasted only a season and they soon found themselves facing off, when Compton played for the Batangas Blades and Victolero with the San Juan Knights.
Still, the friendship and mutual respect remain until now.
“Pusong Pinoy na rin talaga siya kasi ‘yung asawa niya Filipina at mas magaling pa nga mag-Tagalog sa akin ‘to eh,” Victolero said of his rival.
Compton considers the best-of-seven finals a win-win situation between friends.
“It’s just great. Masaya ako na at least kaibigan ko si coach. Isa sa amin, someone will have his first championship.”