DESPITE the bitter parting of ways, Leo Austria admitted he harbors no ill feelings toward Adamson, the same team he once led to the UAAP Final Four.
Instead, Austria, now head coach of San Miguel Beer in the PBA, said he’ll forever be grateful for the school that gave him a coaching break in the collegiate ranks.
“I would like to thank the Adamson community for having me for the last seven years,” said Austria, who steered the Beermen to the finals of the PBA Philippine Cup against Alaska that starts Wednesday.
Prior to his stint with San Miguel, Austria served as Adamson’s head coach in 2006, and again from 2008 to 2013, a stretch that saw him lead the Falcons to a Final Four appearance in 2011.
But following the impressive feat, the Falcons fell into hard times, missing the semis during Austria’s final two years with the school.
During his final season with the Falcons, Austria bared several quarters within the Adamson community had started questioning his ability to lead the team.
Austria eventually didn’t return the following year and was replaced by Kenneth Duremdes prior to Season 77.
Alex Nuyles, one of Adamson’s reliable players during Austria’s time with the school, was among those surprised by the departure of his former coach from the team.
“’Yung nangyari sa Adamson, unexpected. Maganda ‘yung ginagawa niya (Austria) sa team. Kulang lang talaga sa suporta,” said Nuyles.
Following the fallout with Adamson, Austria soon found himself landing the head coaching job at San Miguel, a team he would lead to the finals right in very first conference.
“Masaya ako para sa kanya,” said Nuyles, who’s now playing for Blackwater.
For the second year pro, carrying San Miguel to the all-Filipino finals is not Austria’s way of proving something to Adamson.
He just believed Austria losing the Adamson job turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
“I’ll never use that kind of word dahil nakinabang rin ako sa kanila,” said Austria when asked if he, indeed, had something to prove to Adamson.
“It’s very unfortunate na nawala ako doon pero it’s good for me din dahil nagkaroon ako ng chance to coach a different team like San Miguel.”
After his departure, the Falcons struggled the entire Season 77 which saw them lose 13 out of their 14 matches. One game even had them scoring just 25 points - a modern-day low output in the league – in a losing effort against eventual champion National University.
Austria refused to blame the Falcons’ struggles on the coaching changes.
“Everybody has their own opinion. Pero you’ll never know. Maybe kung nawala ako, nag-champion sila, baka tama ‘yung decision (to replace me). You’ll never really know what will happen,” Austria said.
Despite the current success he is now reaping in the pro league, Austria insisted he will forever be grateful to Adamson since it was with the Falcons that he was able to hone his skills as a coach before heading to the Asean Basketball League (ABL) and later the PBA.
“I was given an opportunity that I was able to hone my ability to coach a team,” said Austria.