JEFFREY Cariaso admits winning one against his former mentor and former team is sweet.
But he said there’s nothing sweeter than having another opportunity at winning a PBA championship.
Cariaso put himself in a position to shoot for another title following Alaska’s sweep of deposed champion Star Hotshots in their best-of-five semifinals series to advance in the championship round of the Governors Cup.
“Is it sweet because you beat (Star coach) Tim (Cone)? To me, it’s sweeter probably a little bit, only because it was your former team,” said Cariaso of the Aces’ demolition of the Hotshots, where he once served as deputy of Cone.
“I’m sure they’ll say the same thing kung sila yung nasa kabilang side (finals),” he stressed. “Basta for me, the opportunity to win another championship is always (the) sweeter one."
The 42-year-old Cariaso left Cone and Star after he was appointed head coach of Barangay Ginebra, where his two-conference stint ended when he replaced by Ato Agustin just before the start of this year’s Commissioner’s Cup.
Cariaso refused to delve on his unceremonious exit with the Kings, but was sure enough to say he made the right decision to return to Alaska, where he was first named as basketball director before being added to the staff of head coach Alex Compton.
“Regrets? Not at all, whether we we’re in the finals or not, this was a career decision I made. Like I said, whether we made it to the finals this conference, I am happy with my choices,” he said.
Asked if he is a lucky charm as an assistant coach after previously winning four titles under Cone – he sacrificed a possible shot at being part of Star’s grand slam conquest when he accepted the Ginebra head coaching job just before last year’s Governors Cup – Cariaso could only shake his head.
“Lucky charm? I don’t know. I just try to do my best to help the guys win. A lot of what I do now is really preparing them. A lot of the things I do at Purefoods under coach Tim, just getting them mentally ready, physically ready for battle,” he humbly said.
“A win is a win, we’re happy that we won (against Star in the semis).”
But for someone who knows Cone for a long time, Cariaso believes the most accomplished coach in PBA history will bounce back strong next season.
“He’s gonna come back. But I’m not the least bit worried. I think we played defense and really played it together at the right time,” he responded.
“Coach Tim, you can never count him out and his boys are gonna come out stronger,” Cariaso added.
As a member of the 1996 Alaska team that won a grand slam only to struggle retaining its championships the following year, Cariaso is well aware of how the Hotshots are feeling right now.
“The challenge there is being consistent. You get a taste of winning, it’s always the challenge of just trying to be consistent. I am not saying they weren’t, but you can only expect the level to go down a little bit, and you just gotta try find that additional motivation,” said the former national player.
“Purefoods have been winning for so long. I’m not saying they’re out and they’re done coz they have a lot of good young players who are up and coming who can really carry the torch. Their bench now is very good, so you can never count them out,” he added.
Is he afraid of a stronger Star side coming back next season?
“I think what happened is we (Alaska) got better. I don’t exactly know what they’re going through, I think we got better. Like I said, you gotta give credit to our guys who played better in the series (against The Hotshots),” he said.