Leo Austria admits putting neck on the line with decision not to play Wilkerson
SMB coach Leo Austria heaves a sigh of relief after the Game Three victory: “We're lucky dahil nanalo kami ngayon. If not, baka kasama na kami sa Boracay Cup,” he says. Dante Peralta

SAN Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria revealed that his job was on the line after making a decision to play with an all-Filipino lineup in Game Three of their PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinal series against Rain or Shine on Thursday night.

The SMB coach made the decision to dump import Tyler Wilkerson after the Best Import award candidate had a falling out with the coaching staff and management in the aftermath of Game Two last Tuesday.

Wilkerson reportedly apologized for his outburst the morning after, yet Austria stuck to his plan.

“It's my decision to not play our import,” Austria said after the 104-98 Game Three win that kept the alive in the best-of-five series.

"I think we proved it and the players contributed a lot because the playing time and the scoring na pinupuntahan ng import was taken care of players like Marcio (Lassiter), Arwind (Santos), and June Mar (Fajardo).”

“Thank God I proved something because if not, baka matanggal na ako dito,” he added.

[See SMB lets go of import Wilkerson]

Austria implied Wilkerson, who is set to be replaced by returning reinforcement AZ Reid, was somehow holding the Beermen back with his shot volume.

“I think most of the touches na kay Wilkerson to the point na sya na ang kukuha ng tira at gagawa ng paraan,” Austria explained. “It's obvious na kaya ni Wilkerson but he's not involving his teammates. He wants to prove that he's the best import – and there's no doubt, but what we need is somebody who could lead us.”

“Yung players namin ay mature enough na kung ano yung sinabi, gagawin, pero makikita mo na they are not happy even though our import scored a lot of points,” he added. “This time, I think kita na masayang masaya sila.”

[See After staving off elimination, SMB bringing back AZ Reid]

Austria, who apologized to the media for not granting interviews since Tuesday night after the incident happened, is understandably undrelieved.

“We're lucky dahil nanalo kami ngayon. If not, baka kasama na kami sa Boracay Cup,” he said before letting out a hearty laugh.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos