JUST weeks after being dropped from the San Miguel Beer coaching staff in the PBA, veteran coach Leo Austria has accepted an offer to join Ateneo as an official in its athletics department.
Ateneo athletic director Ricky Palou confirmed that Austria, who held many coaching positions in the UAAP and the PBA, will be holding a key position in running the school's sports program.
“Coach Leo is going to join my office on April 1,” said Palou. “He will be handling the sports development program of my office. He will be looking at the different sports and sit down with the program head and coaches and see how we can improve it.”
Palou said one of Austria’s roles is to recruit athletes for the sports program.
“We will also ask him to look around. Marami rin siyang contacts so he should be able to recruit players,” said Palou.
The hiring came after Austria was unceremoniously released by the San Miguel group, where he was coach of the SMB team that won the ABL championship last season and assistant coach at PBA ballclub Petron.
His exit followed a coaching rigodon at Petron/San Miguel that saw Biboy Ravanes emerge as the head coach and Todd Purves as an active consultant.
Austria had earlier stepped down as head coach of Adamson after Season 76 of the UAAP where the Falcons missed the Final Four.
Palou said Ateneo has long been trying to lure Austria, who was once considered for the head-coaching position after Norman Black moved from the Blue Eagles to Talk ‘N Text in the PBA.
‘Matagal na namin siyang kausap, sabi niya lagi, 'I’ll think about it.' Eventually, tinanggap na niya,” said Palou.
Incidentally, Austria’s son Bacon also works for Ateneo as part of the coaching staff of its juniors squad.
“When we talked to him, sabi namin sa kanya, 'You can’t be a coach forever.' At this point in time, tinitignan na niya dapat ‘yung long term niya. So we gave him a permanent job in Ateneo,” said Palou.
Palou, however, clarified that Austria can still accept any coaching job outside the UAAP.
“We are not stopping him from coaching. Basta huwag lang UAAP,” said Palou.
Palou also reiterated that there are no plans to elevate Austria to the position of head coach of the school's basketball teams.
“We have no plans for that right now. We are looking at improving our different programs,” Palou said.