Louie Alas still remembers the actions he told Phoenix management they should take if they felt his performance had dipped, after signing a three-year deal as the young franchise’s head coach back in 2017.
“Nung pagpirma ko sa kanila dito, ang sinabi ko sa kanila, ‘If you feel na ‘yung performance ko is nagdi-dip na, wala kayong kailangang gawing justification whatsoever’. Just let me know,” he told The Chasedown on Saturday.
“Alam ko ang basketball dahil andito na tayo — fifty-six na tayo. Fifty-six years old ako, siguro forty years niyan nasa basketball. So in and out, alam ko lahat ‘yan.”
Fast forward to 2020. That partnership ended on Friday, when Phoenix announced that it will discontinue the services of Alas as its chief mentor “after much deliberation”, as its sights are now set on the future.
The move surprised quite a few given the contributions Alas has made to the team, but the champion coach understands since management simply based its decision on performance.
Alas steered the Fuel Masters to their first-ever semis appearance in the 2019 PBA Philippine Cup where they bowed to eventual champs San Miguel. They then missed the playoffs in the next two conferences.
At the time, Calvin Abueva was suspended by the league following a string of on-court incidents early in the Commissioner’s Cup. Several players, including Matthew Wright, were also playing hurt all season long.
“Maliwanag naman ‘yung usapan namin — performance-based ‘yung kontrata ko,” said Alas, who amassed a 33-33 record with the Fuel Masters, highlighted by a 9-2 slate in that aforementioned All-Filipino tilt where they clinched top seed.
But apparently, it wasn’t a smooth parting of ways. Alas revealed that he was asked by the team to sign a resignation letter, but he declined as he did not want to leave the impression that he had quit on his team.
That letter, which he said he received last Saturday, came shortly after he asked the management when he could take a swab test so that he could rejoin the Fuel Masters’ workouts at Upper Deck in Pasig City.
Alas, late last August, suffered a 15-day suspension by Phoenix after committing three violations of health protocols, including prematurely entering the basketball court during decontamination.
“Last Saturday, last kami nag-usap ni [team manager] Paolo Bugia. Pinadalhan niya ‘ko ng sulat … Ang nakalagay sa sulat is ‘yung effectivity ng resignation ko, pipirmahan ko lang. Sabi ko, ‘I cannot do that. I cannot do that’,” he said.
“Sabi sa’kin nung Saturday night na, ‘Coach, I’m appealing to you para at least may makuha ka dun sa remainder ng contract mo.’ So ‘yun ang mas pinag-usapan namin. Sabi ko, let me sleep on it. Patulugin niyo muna ako dahil as I’ve said, I can’t do that — ‘yung magsa-sign ako sa piece of paper na nagre-resign ako. E hindi naman ako nagre-resign.
“Sinabi ko naman sa kanya hindi ko gagawin ‘yan dahil ayokong malagay sa isip niyo na nagqu-quit ako sa team ko. Dahil unang una, sinabi ko sa kanila, ilalaban ko hanggang dulo ‘yung team na ‘yun na competitive team,” he added.
Alas said that he’s more than willing to finish his contract, as he’s convinced that he has a competitive lineup at his disposal. Phoenix recently boosted its backcourt with Brian Heruela, and added more size with Jake Pascual and Jansen Rios.
And also, according to the outspoken tactician, the playing field has become even now this season with June Mar Fajardo out. The six-time Most Valuable Player is still recovering from his leg injury.
“Palagi kong sinasabi na willing akong tapusin yung contract ko dahil alam ko na competitive ‘yung team, at ‘yung playing field ng PBA without June Mar medyo naging parehas,” Alas said.
But then, there are no excuses for Alas. He’s all about the welfare of Phoenix, which entered the PBA in 2016 following its acquisition of the Barako Bull franchise from the Lina Group of Companies.
“Ang sinasabi ko nga sa kanila, willing akong ilaban ‘tong team na ‘to mula umpisa hanggang dulo 1 unless may nalalaman silang mas maganda na ikagaganda ng team,” said Alas, whose contract will expire next month.
And he remains grateful to Phoenix, which he expressed in a separate statement. “Coaching the Phoenix Fuel Masters the past three years has been a great honor and privilege to me, and I thank the entire management, headed by Boss Dennis A. Uy for giving me all the support during my tenure,” said Alas, who won titles in the MBA, NCAA, and the ABL.
This is a tough time for Alas, but he’s doing his best to look at the positive side of things. He’s enjoying the blessings he’s received, such as being a father-in-law and a grandpa.
“Year 2020 nawala ang trabaho ko pero tatlong babae naman yung pumalit — si Amy, ‘yung wife ni Junjun; si Selina, ‘yung wife ni Kevin; at si Kamryn. So saan ka pa? ‘Di ba? Kahit sinasabi mo nga na sobrang saya tapos napalitan ng lungkot kahapon, pero hindi mapapalitan ‘yung saya na nakuha namin dun sa pagkawala ng isang trabaho,” he said.
“Sabi nga, may isang pintong magsasara, maraming bintana naman ‘yung bumubukas.”