ABL champion coach Leo Austria said on Wednesday he has been left both frustrated and puzzled after finding himself without a job after the latest shuffle of coaches by PBA ballclub San Miguel Beer.
Austria, a Petron assistant who who steered San Miguel’s Asean Basketball League team to the championship last season, was dropped from the Beermen's coaching pool which is now led by the same man he beat in the last finals of the regional league - John Todd Purves.
“Dati kasi alam ko ganun nga ang slogan ng San Miguel: ‘Iba ang may pinagsamahan.' 'Yun ang tradition nila nun eh. Sa commercial makikita mo yun eh … ngayon eh mukhang nababago na,” said Austria when he confirmed to Spin.ph that he is indeed out of the SMB coaching staff.
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“Dati kasi alam ko ganun nga ang slogan ng San Miguel: ‘Iba ang may pinagsamahan.' 'Yun ang tradition nila nun eh. Sa commercial makikita mo yun eh … ngayon eh mukhang nababago na." Recently released Petron assistant coach Leo Austria
“Hindi ko na-experience 'yun (samahan) eh. Minsan nababanggit ko yun nun: ‘Maganda dito sa San Miguel dahil iba ang may pinagsamahan,' before (nung player pa ako) talagang inggit na inggit ako sa mga taga San Miguel, dahil ang ganda ng samahan,” he added.
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The former Adamson coach said he had no idea why he got lost in the shuffle after the latest round of changes to the San Miguel/Petron coaching staff, which saw Biboy Ravanes assume the head-coaching position replacing Gee Abanilla while Purves take on an 'active consultant' role.
“Hindi ko alam kung ano ang nangyari. Ayoko nang pag-isipan ng masama, may kanya-kanyang diskarte kung sino man sila (decision-makers). Hindi ko talaga alam kung paano nangyari 'yun (bigla akong nawala sa team),” he said.
The former PBA Rookie of the Year said he was even looking forward to resuming practice now that the team is back to the San Miguel Beer name, until he got a call from SMC head of basketball operations Robert Non saying he will no longer be part of the San Miguel staff.
No reason was given for the decision to drop him, he added.
“Inilabas ko pa nga yung uniform ko sa ABL na San Miguel, 'yun kako isusuot ko, pero unfortunately that same night bago ang practice namin nung Monday, tinawagan ako ni Boss Robert na, ‘Pasensya na Leo,' ganito ganun nga, merun silang gustong gawin,” Austria said.
“Wala silang ini-explain na dahilan. Sabi ko lang: ‘Bakit naman ganun? Maganda na nga 'yung tinatakbo ng team. Actually yung coaching staff, masaya sa nangyayari although hindi kami pumasok sa finals. Pero pa-improve na ng pa-improve,” he said.
Asked if he felt bad at how he was treated, Austria made no effort to hide his disappointment: “Kahit papano (sumama ang loob ko) kasi palaisipan sa akin kung may nagawa akong mali.
“Kung may nagawa akong kasalanan o ganyan at sinabi nila, walang problema tatanggapin ko (na inalis nila ako). I am man enough to admit my fault … pero kung iisipin nila eh para sa kapakanan ng team, I think hindi naman ako 'yung hindi nakakatulong,” he said.
“In fact, since I joined the team, hindi ako nagkaroon kahit na isang absent … ako lang ang may perfect attendance sa team na 'yun. I was trying my best to do my role. Gusto ko mag-contribute because I wanted to win.”
Easily the most experienced among Petron's pool of coaches, Austria said his major role as an assistant was to map out the defensive and substitution plans of the team during games.
“Alam nila na may knowledge ako sa basketball. I am one of the most experienced coaches (sa team). When it comes to experience, mas eksperiyensyado ako sa mga andun, ako nga tinatanong nila sa situational,” he said.
The native of Quezon province pride, however, admitted he was very vocal most of the time during team meetings.
“Hindi kasi ako ‘Yes sir.' Kasi kung mali o nakikita ko na hindi effective, talagang sasabihin ko,” he said. “Tingin ko hindi naman 'yung (coaching) staff ang dahilan kung bakit ako nawala. Hindi yun ang dahilan kasi open kami sa coaching staff.”
A source told Spin.ph that Austria was appointed coach of the San Miguel team in the ABL by the company’s former sports director Noli Eala, whose functions were absorbed by Non.
Does he have any bad blood against Purves, Austria was asked.
“Hindi naman ako yung uri na makikialam during the game na makikisigaw at makikiutos. Alam ko irespeto ang hierarchy. Wala silang dapat ikatakot sa akin. Hindi ako nananaksak ng likod,” said Austria.
To make matters worse, Austria has also left his Adamson job months ago, leaving him without a job although he bared that he was paid in full and given a bonus by the SMC-owned ballclub.
His contract will expire in June.
“Pero sana lang nakita nila 'yung naging contribution ko, kaso wala tayong magagawa, yung pinaghirapan ko at anuman naibigay ko, binayaran nila 'yun," said Austria.
“Iniwan ko talaga lahat, kasi akala ko okay na ko rito. Kampante na ko. Pero ngayon aasa na lang ako na baka may ibang team o company diyan na makita ang mga nagawa ko,” he added.
Austria said he plans to take a short vacation before he maps out the next moves for his career.
Meanwhile, a Spin.ph source bared that Purves is set to bring in a number of assistants he once worked with during his time with the Indonesia Warriors in the ABL.