Luigi Trillo on facing former team Alaska: 'These guys are close to my heart, but it's a series'
Former Alaska coach Luigi Trillo says he still feels strange whenever his new team, Meralco, faces the Aces in the PBA. Jerome Ascano

THEY’VE parted ways almost three years or eight conferences ago, yet there’s still an odd feeling whenever Luigi Trillo, the top deputy of Meralco, faces Alaska, his former team, in the PBA.

Trillo couldn’t help but be a little bit nostalgic when the opener of their best-of-five series was over, a game the Aces won by grinding out a close 97-94 win for a 1-0 lead in the race-to-three-wins duel in the Commissioner's Cup semifinals.

And who wouldn’t be? He’s been into a lot of wars with the Aces before and won his first and only league championship in 2013 behind the same core Alaska has right now led by Calvin Abueva.

“Yeah, it’s so awkward,” was how he describes the feeling going up against the very same personnel he used to work with for a long time in a battle where the stakes are definitely high.

“I’ve been there for 16 years, but you know, it’s part of our job,” stressed Trillo, who is in his second season as assistant to coach Norman Black.

Having known these bunch of Aces, including current import Rob Dozier - who first played in the league under Trillo – gives him the leeway to suggest inputs on how to take advantage of the opposition’s weaknesses.

And it showed in Game One when the Bolts led the Aces by as many as nine points in the fourth period and almost forced overtime had Ronjay Enrile buried a wide-open trey at the buzzer.

“I think we did a good job of getting the lead and playing their strength,” said Luigi, son of longtime Alaska team manager Joaqui Trillo. “We have to give up some things. We take away some things, but we have to give up some things, and they made those things that we’re giving up.”

Trillo is thrilled at seeing the Bolts making great strides in the short time that he’s with the franchise, having advanced to the semifinals for the second time in the last four conferences.

But he knows the young team remains the underdog against an Alaska side that has been there and done that.

“We won a championship in 2013 so this team is solid,” said Trillo, the 2013 PBA Press Corps Coach of the Year. “And they added (Chris) Banchero and a couple of guys, plus the experience they have.

“This team should have won before already, they’ve been in three finals (appearances),” he said referring to two Philippine Cup and Governors Cup championship series stints, which the Aces unfortunately both lost.

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Both sides have since moved on after Luigi, brother to Meralco team manager Paolo Trillo, left his home midway through the 2013 Governors Cup. Yet, they try to maintain the mutual respect for each other through the years.

“I love these guys. I love coach Alex (Compton) and all these guys. We’ve been together for a long time, coach Louie (Alas) to name a few,” he said. “These guys are close to my heart, Calvin, and all of them, but it is a series.”

And when in a war, everything else takes a backseat.

“I’m sure the way they want to beat us up, we want to beat them up, too,” he added.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos