Winning championships has become a habit for Leo Austria.
And so does bagging Coach of the Year awards.
For the fourth time in the last five years, the San Miguel mentor will be the recipient of the coveted Virgilio “Baby” Dalupan trophy in the annual PBA Press Corps Awards ceremony.
Austria, 62, edged Barangay Ginebra coaching great Tim Cone for the honor named after the late great “Maestro” of Philippine basketball.
The crowning glory for Austria will have to wait further, however, as the awarding rite, originally scheduled last March 16 at the Novotel Manila in Araneta Center and to be aired over Cignal TV, had been postponed indefinitely following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Austria, the former Rookie of the Year (1985), clinched the award annually given by the men and women who regularly cover the PBA beat, after guiding San Miguel to back-to-back championships in the 2019 season, including a record fifth straight crown in the Philippine Cup.
Following their title triumph in the mid-season Commissioner’s Cup, the Beermen were in line of gunning for a rare grand slam but faltered in the homestretch of the Governors’ Cup, which Cone and the Kings eventually won.
But there was no denying Austria, who now owns a total of eight championships since becoming San Miguel coach in 2014, of winning the honor again.
The soft-spoken coach from Sariaya, Quezon made history three years ago when he became the first to win the award three seasons in a row and earned the right to keep the Perpetual Trophy – first given in 1993 – permanently.
He lost to Magnolia’s Chito Victolero for the 2018 award.
The Coach of the Year title is the fourth for Austria, moving him to solo at no. two in the all-time winning list after previously being tied with Cone and Ryan Gregorio.
Chot Reyes, the former Gilas Pilipinas mentor, tops the honor roll as the only five-time winner of the award.
Other multiple winners are Yeng Guiao, Jong Uichico, and Perry Ronquillo, all with two each for a tie at no. four.