LEO Austria is well aware of the spat that strained the relationship of Arwind Santos and newly re-acquired guard Alex Cabagnot during their first time together at the San Miguel Beer camp.
But the Beermen coach guaranteed concerned fans that he is on top of the situation.
Two days after the Beermen welcomed back Cabagnot after the trade that sent Sol Mercado to GlobalPort, Austria told Spin.ph that he is no longer new to handling feuds among his players.
“Sanay na tayo sa mga ganyang sitwasyon at challenge,” said Austria, who claimed to have faced the same challenge when he was handling the now-defunct Shell team in the PBA and Adamson in the college leagues.
“Marami pa kong mas madugong problemang kinaharap. Sa Shell nga, apat na factions (ang nakaharap ko). I was able to define the role of the players, nag semis pa kami, nag finals pa dapat,” he said.
“Sa Adamson, ganun din. Limang factions naman yun. Sabi ko nga sa sarili ko parang (itinadhana ata) ako na maging trouble-shooter.”
But for Austria, who has been been in and out of the San Miguel organization for the past three years now, claimed he didn’t personally experience signs of the spat between Santos and Cabagnot.
“Before wala akong nakikita (na away nila) as far as my experience is concerned. Pero if they don’t agree with me, we will talk about it,” Ausria assured.
“Of course, ako bahala. Ako ang in command sa team,” he added.
Former Petron team consultant Rajko Toroman has told Spin.ph that Santos and Cabagnot were indeed not in good terms during his tenure with the team last year.
Austria, however, assures he will let the players know who's in charge.
“Ako ang bahala!”
“Baka (kasi) dati may nangyari sa kanila out of frustration, nagkagulo, tapos lumalaki. My team today, alam nila kung sino mali at sino tama,” he added.
When asked if he was the one who sought the trade that has come under fire for its timing especially after the team finished the Philippine Cup eliminations as the top seed, Austria didn't give a direct answer.
“Well kahit ano nangyari sa team namin ... This is my responsibility,” he replied. "Basta (kung ano man mangyayari sa pinasok naming trade), ako ang mananagot. Maganda o mabuti, ako 'yan.
“Ganun naman dapat eh. Pag maganda nilaro ng player, magagaling sila. Pag natalo kami, ako (coach) ang may kasalanan. Involved ako sa lahat,” added the former PBA guard.
Austria also revealed that the decision to re-hire Cabagnot from GlobalPort has long been in the drawing board for San Miguel, adding the move was done in consultation with the players.
“Itong decision na ito, matagal na itong on the table. It happens na siguro, nag-initiate na yung ibang camp. Kaya natuloy ito,” he said.
On the criticism from fans, Austria said: “I am sure that we in the coaching staff, we know basketball better. Wala naman sa aming gustong pumalpak."
Meanwhile, Austria shed light on the decision to pick Cabagnot over Mercado, who has made no effort to hide his disappointment over the trade.
“We’re playing well good with Sol. I defined his role (in the team). But I think we will do better with Alex,” he said. “We know that Alex, everytime he is open sa perimeter, he can connect sa labas. Pwede siyang pumasa at mag set up ng teammates.
“We have June Mar (Fajardo) in the post, we need somebody who can be a threat outside.”