JUST two years after losing the mastermind of Alaska's dynastic reign in the nineties, the Aces were able to put together a team that not only won a PBA trophy but looked young and good enough to contend for more championships in the months and years to come.
Alaska's winning formula?
As far as team owner Wilfred Uytengsu is concerned, it has always been the organization's belief that teamwork - and not individual talent - wins championships.
“I'll take teamwork over superstars," said Uytengsu after Alaska won its first championship since the departure of longtime coach Tim Cone with a sweep of Barangay Ginebra in the Commissioner's Cup Finals. "We’ll have great individual talent, but we want them to play as a team."
Cone had led Alaska to 13 league championships including a grand slam in 1996 with a team built around Johnny Abarrientos, Jojo Lastimosa and Bong Hawkins, and the multi-titled coach's stunning move to San Mig Coffee two years ago had left the organization in free fall.
But just a year after hitting rock-bottom, Alaska has picked itself up and worked its way back to the top behind longtime Cone understudy Luigi Trillo.
The departure of LA Tenorio before the season left Trillo with fewer pieces to work with, but the young Alaska coach masterminded the renaissance behind holdover Sonny Thoss, JV Casio (who came on board in the Tenorio trade) and top rookie pick Calvin Abueva.
Still, Uytengsu said it was not so much the talent but Trillo's success in having his nucleus play well together that worked wonders for the franchise.
“Even in our grand slam year, we were not the most talented team (in the league). People forget that. We were a dominant team, but we don’t have dominant individual players all around,” said Uytengsu, stressing that he is not a believer of the ‘Miami Heat school.'
“It’s always been, ‘We, not me.' We don’t really rely on a number of superstars. There are other teams more talented than us today. (But) we win by teamwork."
With a young and solid core, Alaska now figures to be a championship contender in the foreseeable future, but Uytengsu said it would be unfair to expect another long reign from this team similar to the organization's magical run in the nineties.
“We never planned for a dynasty the first time around. As long as we’re competitive each and every conference and we’re playing for championships, I will take it,” said the outspoken team owner.
“This team has a lot of potential. (But) I don’t want to put pressure on the team. I just want to go out there and play hard every game. We win with integrity, that’s important,” he added.