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Leo Austria busts four myths from San Miguel’s forgettable conference



Expectations were lofty for the newly-crowned PBA Philippine Cup champions, San Miguel Beermen, when they entered the season’s Commissioner’s Cup. However, the campaign did not go the way it was ought to be played, and the Beermen suffered four straight losses. Hopes immediately dimmed, and even with the arrival of prolific scorer, Arizona Reid, as the squad’s reinforcement, the Beermen could only do so much as it bowed out with a 4-7 record.

A cloud of uncertainty surrounded the team, while speculations (and a handful of unsolicited advice) surfaced left and right: the team was overconfident, the team had a championship hangover, the team was this and that, head coach Leo Austria should be fired, trade this guy, trade that guy.

Although there is disappointment, Austria still congratulated the team for not giving up in spite of a roller-coaster ride this conference.

“I will congratulate them. We never gave up although it was a tough task for us to win by a big margin. I told them whatever happens sa scenario, we just want to end on a winning note,” Austria said after the Beermen conquered GlobalPort.

And, for the benefit of San Miguel fans and PBA followers in general as to what contributed to the Beermen’s demise, Austria provided the answers.

Myth #1: San Miguel had a “hangover” [READ: Championship Hangover by Adiel Sam de Jesus]Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Leo Austria busts four myths from San Miguel's forgettable conference

Fine. They basked in the glory of winning the title of the most prestigious conference. They had victory parties, guestings, shootings for TV commercials, and a lot of extra-curricular activities.

What people don’t understand is that the Beermen had to return to practice right away as the Commissioner’s Cup was set to roll in about a week or two, but some members wanted to take a breather.

Being the father figure that he is, Austria let his wards take an extra (and well deserved) rest to spend time with their families back in their respective hometowns.

“First, yung conditioning namin, it showed sa first few games. It was so obvious na flat na flat kami. No energy. Wala sa focus. Parang nakalimutan ata maglaro. ‘Yung mga nangyari sa amin [this conference], lesson ito sa amin,” Austria said.

“I am sure for the third conference, wala kaming reason para mawalan ng energy because there is a lot of time to recharge and figure out ano ba talaga ang kulang sa amin. Teams keep winning because of their imports, and pagdating ng import namin [Ronald Roberts] out of shape pa ang team.”

Myth #2: The team became “overconfident”

Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Leo Austria busts four myths from San Miguel's forgettable conference

SMB’s Ronald Roberts

Austria told the Beermen right after winning the Philippine Cup title that they have a game soon, and they have to train.

However, a lot of the Beermen’s rotation players were injured at the start of the Commissioner’s Cup. In addition, Philippine Cup teams, which have been eliminated early, had the luxury of training right away for the next conference, and in the process build rapport with their imports.

Contrary to what people think, it was hard for Austria to bring confidence to the team at the start of the second conference.

“The team was out of shape and they were not inspired with the import [Roberts], although he isn’t bad. Ang mentality kasi ng mga team ay kapag magaling ang import, mai-inspire ka rin e,” he said.

“Three days before our first game, doon lang nakapag-ensayo si June Mar [Fajardo]. Si Arwind [Santos] bugbog rin ang katawan, hindi makapag-todo. I am trying to push them pero I am concerned with their physical condition, baka ma-injure. Lagi sila nasa rehabilitation room and even my rotation players, may nangyari sa kanila.”

“Mahirap talaga i-bring back yung confidence ng team. Players also wanted to go back to their loved ones to celebrate, and I don’t want to be KJ [Kill Joy],” he added. “Naglaro sila ng maayos sa Philippine Cup so deserving naman sila makakuha ng pahinga.”

Myth #3: June Mar Fajardo “underperformed”
Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Leo Austria busts four myths from San Miguel's forgettable conference

Austria emphasized Fajardo’s role in the import-laden conference was not to be the go-to guy. It should have been the reinforcement’s role, but they failed to land an import with size who can take over.

They brought a prolific scorer in Reid nevertheless, and the Beermen were 4-3 with him.

“We were trying to catch up, but the other teams were also loading. Arwind and Alex [Cabagnot] were shooting bad from the field. Marcio [Lassiter] is not scoring in double digits. June Mar was not our go to guy because of bigger and quicker imports. In the Philippine Cup he was our advantage. If we have a 6-foot-9 import, then our advantage would be him and June Mar. AZ [Reid] brings confidence to the team, but ang pinag-uusapan kasi natin is how to get to the quarterfinals.”

Myth #4: It’s all downhill for the BeermenPhilippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Leo Austria busts four myths from San Miguel's forgettable conference

Nah. Ask AZ Reid [READ: Defiant Reid vows: ‘If we start 0-4 next conference, send me home’].

The Beermen will have a month to prepare for the season-ending Governors’ Cup, and Austria hopes the team will pick up valuable lessons from the Commissioner’s Cup.

“Natuto na kami. And there is no reason for us na sabihing we are not in shape or not prepared.”