HE still has an unfinished business with Petron Blaze in the PBA Governors Cup, but coach Geen Abanilla is truly proud of what "his other team" had just achieved a few days ago.
Abanilla saw his hard work finally bear fruit after De La Salle regained the UAAP men’s basketball title on Saturday with a gritty 71-69 come-from-behind overtime victory over University of Santo Tomas before a crowd of more than 23,000 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Until the coaching rigodon that saw Juno Sauler assume the De La Salle job prior to the start of Season 76, it was Abanilla who painstakingly put the pieces together of this core of Green Archers who became the toast of the league again.
With the exception of a couple of rookies including Kib Montalbo and Jason Perkins, the rest of the team played under Abanilla a year ago when the Taft-based school reached the Final Four.
And so given time and a little more maturing, Abanilla is well aware about the potential of the team.
He actually didn’t have to wait that long as the Archers ended a six-year title drought following their nerve-wracking victory over the Tigers in the deciding Game Three of the Finals.
Owing to the ongoing best-of-seven title series between Petron and San Mig Coffee, Abanilla failed to watch the game live, but wasn’t surprised his alma matter beat a team as experienced as UST.
“I know for a fact that they will really go far. I know the players are very hard working, I know the coaches know what they’re doing, and of course, we’re really backed up by great management,” he said.
“We’re just seeing glimpses of what they can do. Given more time, they can be a force to reckon with.”
Abanilla, a point guard for the La Salle team that won back-to-back UAAP championships in 1989 and 1990, said there was hardly any regret on his part seeing the team he built from scratch win the ultimate prize with him not the one calling the shots.
“Hindi naman,” said the Petron rookie coach when asked by Spin.ph if there was any misgiving on his part. “There’s always a reason for everything, and God placed me in this situation. And I’m happy with what I’m doing.”
And neither does he despise management’s decision to pull him out of the team at the last minute in place of Sauler.
“You can’t discount the fact that management has vision that we don’t know. They always have certain visions that I could not understand, but I know for a fact that they always made the right decision, that’s why they’re very successful,” he said.
“I think giving me this role with Petron really helped me, and I’m very grateful for this situation.”
Abanilla is also not about to take credit away for the wonderful job Sauler did with the Archers, given the little time he had to prepare them and make the team believe in his system.
“May kaunting pagkakaiba (sa sistema), Coach Juno has his own system naman. It’s very difficult if he’ll continue (my system). May ibang philosophies siguro na nagkakahawig, but more or less, that’s his,” said Abanilla, who had his share of serving as deputies to other well-established coaches before finally earning the big break as Petron mentor.
“So he (Sauler) should be given credit kasi maganda `yung ginawa niya.”