JUNE Mar Fajardo said San Miguel coach Leo Austria is very much deserving of the 2019 PBA Press Corps Coach of the Year award, the fourth of his coaching career.
Fajardo said no one deserved the award more than the coach he fondly calls 'Pops.’
“Deserving si coach na makuha ‘yung award,” said Fajardo during an episode of the SPIN Sidelines. “Happy lahat kami para sa kanya. Proud kami sa kanya. Sana next year uli.”
Austria got the nod after SMB won two of the three conference titles in the 2019 season. The Sariaya, Quezon native is now one shy of tying Chot Reyes for the most number of Baby Dalupan trophies.
Fajardo said Austria is like a father to him, their relationship dating back to when he was still playing for San Miguel in the Asean Basketball League's (ABL) 2012 season under Austria.
“’Yun ang tawag ko sa kanya,” said Fajardo, when asked why he calls Austria 'Pops.’ “Parang father figure siya sa amin.”
The six-time PBA MVP said Austria is a big season for his success. More than being the top option of the Beermen, Fajardo said Austria's support is paramount.
“Malaki ‘yung naitulong ni coach sa akin. Sa mga plays lang ng San Miguel, halos 80 percent nasa akin ‘yung bola. Pero ‘yung kumpiyansa na binibigay niya sa akin, malaking bagay ‘yun sa akin. Maganda ‘yung pag-handle at pakikisama niya sa amin,” said Fajardo.
Ever since he started coaching, Austria said he treats his players as if they are their sons.
“Nakagisnan ko na ‘yan since I started coaching sa PBL, ABL, at sa Adamson, lagi kong pinaninidigan na ako ‘yung nakakatanda sa kanila. Puwede nila akong tawaging Kuya o Pops. It’s a sign of respect for me,” said Austria.
Just like a father, Austria said he treats his players equally except of course in terms of playing time.
“Kita mo naman sa body language nila na very comfortable sila sa akin. But ang treatment ko sa bawat isa, parang mga anak ko na. Lahat sila. Pero there is no such thing as no favoritism in terms of playing time.
"In the actual game, siyempre what’s good for the team ang uunahin. ‘Yun ang advantage ni June Mar at ibang star players,” said Austria.
Austria said Fajardo calling him ‘Pops’ is a testament to their good relationship.
“Napakabait na bata. Ganun din niya i-respeto ‘yung mga magulang niya. Saludo ako sa kanya. ‘Yung tinuro sa kanya ng kanyang parents, dinadala niya kahit kanino. And never siya mag-criticize ng any member ng team,” said Austria.