ERIC Altamirano is cherishing a new chapter in his basketball career that has come full circle almost three decades in the making with his arrival at Alaska.
Hired as one of the three new assistant coaches of Alex Compton, Altamirano is making his return to a franchise where he made his pro debut in 1989 a year after Great Taste took the former UAAP MVP out of University of the Philippines in the first round of the 1988 Draft.
“Unang una, I’m really honored to be a part of the Alaska organization,” Altamirano said. “Biglang nagfa-flashback ako dito kasi this has been my first team when I first entered the PBA as a player. After 28 years pala bago ako nakabalik sa Alaska, so it’s really an honor to be part of the organization.
“And of course, I’m really excited to work with these players, and of course with the coaching staff,” he added. “It’s another chapter in my life. New season for me.”
The 51-year-old mentor is especially excited with his tandem with close pal Compton. Both coaches started the National Basketball Training Center together and Altamirano is godfather to Compton's children.
“Kami naman ni Alex we’re in constant communication, 'di, ba?” Altamirano said. “It just so happened na nawala si Topex, nawala si Louie and parang he was really looking for somebody to help him out. Ayun nga, naisip niya na ako, so, ako naman I’ve known him for a long time.”
“He’s more than a friend to me and I’m really glad and we’ve always wanted to work together actually,” he added. “So this is a good opportunity to work with him.”
Altamirano is no stranger to coaching at this stage. He's a two-time PBA champion coach and has pro coaching experience since 1997, having coached Purefoods, Mobiline, and Coca-Cola.
Still, the veteran coach insists he still has plenty of adjusting to do after coaching mostly in college the last few years with National University, which he led to a historic UAAP title in 2014.
“Syempre, parang nakakapanibago. Ang tagal ko rin sa college,” Altamirano said. “I’ve worked with young players—from high school nung nasa national team ako and then sa NU sa collegiate players. Syempre malaki talaga, there’s a big difference with how you conduct yourself as a coach sa ganitong level.
“But siguro babalik din yun,” he added. “Ano lang, I just need some time to adjust.”
Good thing, Altamirano is reunited with a handful of players, including Calvin Abueva, Vic Manuel, and Marion Magat, who he handled at one point in their careers.
“I’ve worked with Calvin naman eh sa 3x3. Si Vic (din), si Marion—I was able to coach Marion sa NU, so there’s a lot of familiar faces,” Altamirano said. “But again, I'm really excited to get to know these players. Knowing the culture of Alaska, I like the family atmosphere sa team.”
Once he adapts to the Alaska way of life, Altamirano would be glad to help continue the Alaska winning tradition, and probably a championship.
“Syempre I want the best for Alaska,” Altamirano said. “Ever since kahit nasa labas ako, I always prayed for Alex eh. Even nung time na one game na lang they’re gonna win it, ako I really believed in my heart that Alex will get one."
“So now that I’m here, at least I’ll be able to help him in my own little way to be able to achieve that here in Alaska,” he added.