Alex Compton and Chito Victolero are about to face off with the Governors’ Cup at stake. But 20 years ago, they were playing alongside each other.
Compton and Victolero shared backcourt duties with the Manila Metrostars in the inaugural season of the now-defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association back in 1998, playing under head coach Ricky Dandan.
“Iniisip ko kung kailan. I think it was January 14, 1998? First practice ko sa Pilipinas. Si coach Chito, parang leader,” the outspoken Compton recalled.
“Tuwang-tuwa ako na naging teammate ko, at naging kaibigan ko rin.”
“From the start, kami na talaga partners, nung first time niya maglaro sa Manila. Kami dalawa yung backcourt nun,” added Victolero.
“Naging pusong Pinoy na rin talaga siya … Mas magaling pa nga ‘to mag-Tagalog kaysa sa’kin eh.”
The partnership did not end with gold, as the Metrostars lost in the finals of the 1998 season. Victolero would then be released by the team months before the 1999 season began – a campaign that ended with Compton and the Metrostars winning the National Championship.
With both of them now seasoned head coaches, Compton and Victolero will be figuring in a best-of-seven chess match.
“The PBA is a small world. You have friends on every team,” said Compton.
The upcoming titular bout will be a redemption of sorts for both tacticians and their respective squads.
For Compton, he’s looking to exorcise the ghosts of the past. Since taking over the Aces’ head coaching post from Luigi Trillo in 2014, the American strategist has made it to the Finals four times, but never won a single series.
That losing skid is greatly highlighted by their loss to the San Miguel Beermen back in the 2016 Philippine Cup Finals, where they blew a 3-0 lead.
Victolero, on the other hand, is keen on helping Magnolia win their first title since 2014. They had a chance to end their drought back in the 2018 Philippine Cup Finals, but they also lost to the Beermen in five games.
Both Victolero and Compton are going after their first title as pro coaches. But for Compton, whoever wins will make them glad – they’re good friends, after all.
“I’m happy that one of us is gonna win a championship.”