RUMOR: A widening rift between head coach Luigi Trillo and his players prompted Alaska owner Wilfred Uytengsu to make the switch to Alex Compton just two games into the Aces' campaign in the PBA Governors Cup.
FACTS: Almost two weeks after Alaska made the switch from head coach Luigi Trillo to Alex Compton, nothing has come out from the Aces camp to shed light on the stunning coaching switch done in midstream in the PBA Governors Cup..
Except for a straightforward six-paragraph statement released by the Aces camp, nothing much has been added to explain a coaching switch that has come to be routinely expected from teams like San Miguel Beer and Ginebra but never from a ballclub like Alaska.
They Said It!
“When Trillo's 'resignation' was announced, some league insiders aired fears that the rift between players and coach became so wide that Uytengsu was forced to step in and make a choice.""
Alaska, after all, was coached by Tim Cone for over two decades and would probably still be the coach today had he not moved to San Mig in 2011. Trillo himself went through rough times in his first few conferences in charge, but owner Wilfred Uytengsu kept the faith.
The only time Alaska made a swift coaching change was back in 2012 when Trillo himself stepped in for Joel Banal, who 'resigned' after two disappointing conferences in charge. But those were unusual times for the fabled franchise, coming just after Cone's departure.
“The goal of the Alaska franchise is to be in the semis of every conference and we did not meet that goal in the past two conferences, so I wanted to give management the chance to look at options,” said Banal in a statement
released to the media shortly after his supposed resignation on April 17, 2012.
Trillo's case, however, was different.
The son of longtime Alaska team manager and governor Joaqui not only gave the Uytengsu franchise its first championship in the post-Cone era during last season's PBA Commissioner's Cup, but he won Coach of the Year honors and lent stability to the franchise after Cone's departure.
Although the team has since failed to make it back to the semifinals in three succeeding conferences, Alaska under Trillo remained a force to be reckoned with in the pro league.
The timing of the change was also unusual, done two games into the tournament and not before, giving the impression that it was decided in haste and not totally planned.
Still, Uytengsu said there was nothing unusual about the coaching switch, referring Spin.ph instead to the Alaska media statement which vaguely cited the ""challenging ride"" the team had since its last championship under Trillo as the reason behind the decision.
Yet Uytengsu immediately issued a 'gag order' on the team, from players to top officials, shortly after personally announcing the 'resignation' of Trillo and the appointment of Compton during one Sunday practice.
So is there more to Trillo's sudden exit than meets the eye?
Even before Trillo's departure, there were already talks in league circles about a growing rift between Trillo and some players, accusations of favoritism on the part of the coach, and a disagreement between Trillo and Uytengsu over the fate of some players, particularly Calvin Abueva.
Team insiders also revealed that management talked to the players one by one before the decision was handed out during that Sunday practice.
On whether those internal conflicts came to a head and eventually led to Trillo's exit is not clear, but one player who defied the gag order but spoke on the condition of anonymity confirmed that there was indeed disenchantment among the players in the days leading up to the change.
“May iba kasi kaming mga kakampi, hindi na masaya. Iba na kasi ang pamamalakad niya,” said the player. “Pansin naman ng lahat, nag-iba ang ugali niya since nung mag-champion kami sa Commissioner’s Cup. Dumalas nga rin ang pakikipag-away niya sa ibang teams, di ba?”
The player continued: “Hindi naman sa sinasabi ko na diretsahan pero minsan kasi parang may favoritism siya. Nakikita naman ng mga fans yun eh.
“May iba nga sa amin, pinagmumulta niya ng todo pag nagligang labas, pero pag 'yung favorite niya, hindi namin mamamalayan kung napag-multa rin o naparusahan man lang.”
When Trillo's 'resignation' was announced, some league insiders aired fears that the rift between players and coach became so wide that Uytengsu was forced to step in and make a choice.
Alaska governor Dickie Bachmann, however, was quick to deny long-standing rumors that a 'mutiny' among the players forced Alaska to change coaches in midstream.
“Hindi. No, not true,” said Bachmann. “Not true!”
Listen to a podcast on the interview with Dickie Bachmann HERE
Bachmann insisted that Trillo indeed resigned, but refused to add anything more, saying everyone should just refer to the official team statement released on Sunday.
“It’s all there in the official statement. I agree (that more fans are still asking), but I can’t add anymore (info),” he said.
Bachmann also said that Trillo will still receive benefits owed him for the remainder of his contract and ""that is what the company is doing right now.""
“There is a quick claim and we’re working on that now, we’ll actually see him (Trillo) soon,” Bachmann said.
Asked why Trillo ‘stepped down’ in the middle of the conference, Bachmann refused to give a direct answer.
“Again, I will go back to the statement. It’s all there, Fred (Uytengsu) said it. And then I won’t add anything more. It’s actually clear in the official statement,” he said.