FOR some, it will never feel right seeing Jimmy Alapag in a San Miguel uniform.
But on Sunday, that became a reality as the TNT legend finally showed up in his first game as an assistant coach to Leo Austria in the Beermen in their 113-92 conquest over Magnolia in the 2019 PBA Philippine Cup.
Alapag, 41, showed up in an SMB polo shirt as he sat behind the bench with fellow assistants Biboy Ravanes, Dayong Mendoza, and Boycie Zamar. Austria was joined on the bench by deputies Peter Martin, George Gallent, and Ato Agustin.
Even the San Miguel Alab Pilipinas head coach acknowledged the new environment he's in being flanked by red jerseys after years of being with a TNT franchise draped in blue.
"Definitely a lot different than what it's been the last 15 years," he admitted, "But again, now that I'm here, I'm here to continue the success that they've had the last four years and the rich history of the franchise itself. It's great to see them come out and play well tonight."
Curiously, Alapag's arrival coincided with the best performance at San Miguel of former TNT star Terrence Romeo, who notched a season-best 23 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals, and a block.
Yet for the young mentor, he shrugged it off as pure coincidence.
"He played great," he said of his former Gilas Pilipinas teammate. "He's an explosive scorer. Aside from what he's done his whole career in terms of making shots, it just felt like he just let the game come to him. He played with a great pace and he's an incredible weapon to add to any team, especially for a team like San Miguel."
As much as he's brought in to give the five-peat seeking Beermen a fresh new set of eyes, Alapag said he also aims to learn from these seasoned bench strategists, much like how he acted as a sponge back in his playing career.
"I think with coaching, it's very similar to when you're playing. The learning process never stops. I've felt like that through my career playing, and now that I've transitioned to coaching, there's always more that you can learn," he said.
"I'm thankful to have played with a lot of great coaches in my career and to have had a lot of coaching experience in the relatively short time that I've coached. Even now as a head coach (for San Miguel Alab Pilipinas), there's still a lot you can learn so I'm thankful to be around with coach Leo and coach Ato and the San Miguel staff trying to help the team and at the same time learning."
Alapag reiterated: "I'm here to help. That's my main focus. They've been a dominant team for quite some time and now that I'm here, I'll try to help them continue to do that."