Leo Austria admits not giving Coach of Year honor much thought in wake of Cone, Black feats
Leo Austria savors his second straight Coach of the Year trophy. Jaime Campos

LEO Austria was the recipient of the Virgilio Baby Dalupan Coach of the Year trophy for the second straight time during Saturday’s 2016 PBA Press Corps Annual Awards Night.

And it seems the soft-spoken San Miguel Beer mentor is keen on improving his craft even more.

“This award serves as an inspiration to be better each season, one game at a time,” he said in his acceptance speech at the Gloria Maris Restaurant inside the Gateway Mall.

Austria won the award named in honor of the late great Dalupan on the strength of the Beermen’s amazing comeback from 0-3 down in the Philippine Cup finals against Alaska to retain their all-Filipino championship in what had been dubbed as the famous ‘Beeracle.’

In doing so, the former PBA player became only the first coach since Chot Reyes in 2002 and 2003 to win the award being handed out by the PBA Press Corps, back-to-back. He is also the only third man to achieve the feat after Reyes and Perry Ronquillo (1998 and 1999).

Another Coach of the Year award next year would make the 58-year-old Austria the first ever mentor to take home the Perpetual Dalupan trophy.

But even in victory, the champion coach remains humble as he shared the award with Rain or Shine counterparts Yeng Guiao, Norman Black of Meralco, and Barangay Ginebra’s Tim Cone.

Guiao steered the Elasto Painters to the Commissioner’s Cup crown; Cone ended the Kings’ long eight-year title drought by guiding the franchise to the Governors Cup championship; while Black led the Bolts to their first ever finals appearance in the season-ending conference following a campaign that saw them finish dead-last in the Philippine Cup with a 1-10 (win-loss) record.

He admitted not thinking too much about winning the award for the second straight year because of what these three coaches had also achieved during the course of the season.

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“All of them are deserving of this award,” said Austria during the event presented by CIGNAL.

Looking back, the veteran coach from Sariaya, Quezon credited the Beermen for rising above the challenge notwithstanding their share of ‘struggles along the way.’

“Despite all of this setback, SMB still managed to become the top performer this season, he said. “I’m truly humbled and honored to receive this award.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos