PETRON coach Gee Abanilla could not help but stick to the positives after the Boosters’ defeat at the hands of San Mig Coffee in the PBA Governors Cup Finals.
“I’m disappointed not because we lost, but because I knew they really gave everything they got and they wanted to win this game. But unfortunately we fell short,” the rookie mentor said after the Boosters' 77-87 loss in the deciding Game Seven on Friday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
“But looking ahead, this is the first step of something we want to build on,” Abanilla was quick to add. “I think we did a lot of positive things also. We just have to work on it.”
One thing Abanilla was proud of is the growth of the Boosters, whom he had only handled for three months.
“If you asked me three months ago if we can play in the Finals and be in a Game Seven, I would really say, ‘Parang ang hirap ata nun.’ But as it is, we were lucky enough to make it and even had a shot at winning it.”
Abanilla is particularly proud of rookie sensation June Mar Fajardo’s individual development.
“I see a lot of improvement, like June Mar really blossomed this conference. I got guys having their confidence back. I think with some minor adjustments, I think maybe we can be a good team in the future.”
San Mig counterpart Tim Cone definitely agrees, going as far as comparing Abanilla to Filipino-American Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who has steered the powerhouse squad led by the Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh to two straight NBA titles following a season of unmet expectations.
“Petron is scary and they’re just going to get better. Gee has them playing together.”
“Gee kind of reminds me of Erik Spoelstra. He has no ego. He has a lot of guys in his team that are very good. And he just tries to put it together. He’s done a tremendous job.”
Abanilla thanks Cone for his comment, but admitted he has yet to fully turn his own star-studded side into a cohesive unit.
“Looking at it face value, I think it’s another problem. We got good pieces, yes, but again, the question is always chemistry. I think it’s something we have to work on,” he said. “It’s not gonna be overnight and the buy-in from the players should be consistent and constant.”
“If we do this on a daily basis, I think there are a lot of good things I could see in the future,” added Abanilla, who turned La Salle into a chemistry-rich squad in the UAAP before handing over the reins to Juno Sauler, who finished the job by leading the Archers to the title this season.
Abanilla may have lost his coaching battle Cone, but he is still glad to have learned a lot from the veteran American mentor, who is now tied with the legendary Baby Dalupan for the most titles in the league with 15.
“Hindi nasayang yung series na ito para sa akin because I learned a lot of things from him, although indirectly,” he said. “Yung mga natutunan ko — yung how to adjust, kung ano gagawin pag natalo — I think it’s a good training ground.”
“I want to thank him for that,” added Abanilla, admitting he lost in the psychological battle. “Tagal niyang mine-mess up yung mind ko eh.”
“When we faced each other nung before Game One sa press con, he made it appear na dehadong-dehado sila. I thought the asset of the team is not only the team itself, but coach Tim.”