The caretaker coach led the Bolts to a landmark series win as they finally got over the Gins in the playoffs following their gritty 106-104 win in the do-or-die quarterfinal on Sunday night at the MOA Arena.
This was one special win - the Bolts' first over the Kings in the playoffs after seven setbacks, all of them heartbreaking, including three in the finals.
Trillo, who took over the team on a temporary basis with head coach Norman Black still in the US to take care of business after the death of his mother, considered the victory one of the high points of his coaching career.
“It ranks up there,” said Trillo, a one-time PBA champion coach when he led Alaska to the 2013 Commissioner’s Cup championship. “Ginebra has gotten us six times. At least we can say it’s off our backs now.”
In his run to his lone career PBA championship, Trillo also had to go through Cone when the Aces beat San Mig Coffee during the semifinals before sweeping Barangay Ginebra in the championship.
As the stand-in coach, Trillo has given Meralco six victories over the past eight games including three against Barangay Ginebra alone.
Trillo said it is always difficult when coaching against Cone as he deflected the credit to his coaching staff and the players for another victory.
“Anytime you go up against coach Tim, 24 championships, it’s just a dream to coach against him. I’ve learned a lot from him like I learned a lot from coach Norman. Just grateful that the guys responded.
"It’s the people around me. It’s just not me. I have a great coaching staff and tulungan kami and the players,” said Trillo, who was once one of the assistant coaches of Cone during his stint with Alaska.
Beating Ginebra in a lengthy series is doubly difficult because the Kings always enjoy 'homecourt support,' said the son of former TV commentator and longtime Alaska team manager Joaqui Trillo.
“Ang hirap talunin ng Ginebra in four. You have to beat them four times. I was saying, you play them in an arena, it’s seven games na homecourt. Sometimes, 60,000 ang nandoon. So hard to stop. This was our chance. We got them in two,” said Trillo.
Chris Newsome paid tribute to Trillo for guiding them this far.
“Coach Luigi, he is very experienced. A lot of people forget that he has been in the league for a long time. He has a lot of basketball knowledge. The thing I admire about him the most is that he has the open ear that he is willing to listen to players and coaches, and everyone’s opinions and how we can do this together as a collective.
"I think it’s important to reach out to your players and understand what they see and what they can do collectively to have that same goal of winning the game,” said Newsome.
“I admire his humbleness. I’m excited for him and I’m super happy that he was able to get us through. But it’s not just coach Luigi. But all the coaches. They all did it together to pitch in in coach Norman’s absence."
As much as the Bolts are enjoying success under his tutelage, Trillo said he hopes Black will return soon.
“We have the semifinals ahead. Obviously, coach Norman, hopefully, will be back soon. We welcome him. We dedicate this series and the win to all our Meralco fans, our organization, and our bosses, and our families,” said Trillo.
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