FOR winning two of the three conference titles at stake last season, San Miguel Beer’s Leo Austria will be honored as the 2015 Coach of the Year when the PBA Press Corps (PBAPC) holds its Annual Awards Night this Wednesday at the Century Park Hotel.
Austria’s return to the league as coach was a memorable one as he capped the stint by bagging not just one, but two championships with the Beermen.
He first steered the Beermen to the Philippine Cup title with a thrilling Game 7 victory over Alaska, and after missing the playoffs of the mid-season Commissioner’s Cup, the team bounced back and won the Governors’ Cup crown by sweeping the seven-game series opposite the same Aces squad.
The feat had the former Rookie of the Year (1985) voted unanimously as the Virgilio ‘Baby’ Dalupan Coach of the Year, named in honor of the legendary Crispa Redmanizers mentor.
Austria’s coaching career in Asia’s first ever play-for-pay league began when he took over the post from John Moran at Shell, and later was named head coach of then newcomer Welcoat Paints (now Rain or Shine) in 2006.
The 57-year-old Austria left the pro league after two seasons to coach the Adamson University Falcons in the UAAP, and then the San Miguel Beermen in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) where he won a title in 2013.
Austria was appointed as coach of SMB prior to the 2014-15 season, taking over a powerhouse, but underachieving franchise that has reigning MVP June Mar Fajardo, former MVP Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Lutz, and Ronald Tubid.
Austria is just the third SMB coach to win the coveted award and first in 15 years, joining American Ron Jacobs (1997) and Jong Uichico (2000).
He joins Talk ’N Text’s Patrick “Pato” Gregorio, who will be feted with the Danny Floro Executive of the Year award, as among the top achievers in the Sept. 16 festivities at the Century Park hotel and presented by SCBC-8 Entertainment Corporation and Accel.
Other awardees include Fajardo, named Gerry’s Grill-Defensive Player of the Year, Calvin Abueva (Mr. Quality Minutes), Alex Cabagnot (Comeback Player), Paul Lee (Order of Merit), along with the All-Rookie Team made up of Stanley Pringle, Chris Banchero, Jericho Cruz, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser and Jake Pascual.