Leo Austria embraces pressure to win Grand Slam, urges SMB to make winning a 'lifestyle'
Coach Leo Austria and star player June Mar Fajardo celebrate as San Miguel won two of three championships in last season's PBA campaign. Jerome Ascano

HE is once again facing tremendous odds to deliver, yet Leo Austria is already used to eating pressure for breakfast, lunch, and dinner by now.

After leading San Miguel Beer in winning two out of the three championships at stake last PBA season, Austria is tasked by management this time to go for the next frontier: steer the Beermen to a grand slam.

And he’s not complaining.

“Sanay na ako sa pressure. I think last year, mas mataas pa nga ang pressure,” the SMB coach said in chat with Spin.ph.  “Dahil ang ine-expect nila ay makakuha ng championship. It was a make-or-break year for me.”

“But I know how to handle the pressure now.”

That pressure will keep the Beermen on their toes, after all.

“I’m happy (na may pressure) kasi you have to prepare hard,” Austria said. “Unlike na alam mong malakas yung team mo at walang pressure, magiging overconfident ka eh.”

“Ang napansin ko dito, after winning a championship, may tendency to relax eh, ‘I can afford to have an off night,’” he added. “Pero sabi ko sa kanila, habang nananalo kayo, kailangan gawin ninyong lifestyle yan.”

Austria hopes his players should keep themselves self-motivated first.

“Once in a while, talagang yan ang sinasabi ko sa kanila dahil there’s no amount of motivation para sa kanila kung sila mismo (ay hindi motivated),” he said. “Kailangan sila mismo ay self-motivated.”

“Kahit anong sabihin mo, anong incentives mo, kasi sila rin ang masusunod sa sarili nila eh” the veteran mentor added. “Pagka self motivated sila, I’m sure maganda ang mangyayari sa amin.”

Behind a powerhouse lineup that even grew deeper this offseason, the Beermen have been installed as the favorites to win it all anew along with Talk ‘N Text and Barangay Ginebra.

It seems they will have only themselves to blame if they fail to live up to expectations.

“Hindi naman masama yung goal (na grand slam),” Austria said. “Capable yung team.”

“But it’s tough for us,” he was quick to add. “I’m expecting every game is really going to be hard for us.”

Health has been the main concern for the Beermen as June Mar Fajardo, Marcio Lassiter, and Chris Ross had been out with injuries in the offseason. They became complete for the first time in training camp only last Saturday.

“I’m a little bit worried that our preparation was hampered by injuries,” Austria said as his team starts its title-retention bid against GlobalPort on Saturday in Davao.


Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos