Leo Austria, the genius that ended Petronovela
Paul Lintag on Mar 06, 2017 12:26 PM
How did San Miguel went from Petronovela to Perpetual Trophy? Ask Leo Austria.
A couple of years ago, San Miguel, then known as the Petron Blaze Boosters, was not the PBA dynasty it used to be.
After denying rival Talk 'N Text of a Grand Slam by winning the 2011 Governors' Cup in seven games, the Blaze Boosters entered an extended reign of uncertainty, failing to follow up on their success despite an all-star lineup and an all-star coaching staff.
From 2012 all the way to 2014, the league's winningest franchise was in shambles. Their struggle was colloquially known as Petronovela.
It was ugly and embarassing, not becoming of the PBA's most glamorous team.
Current head coach Leo Austria, kicked off from the team in 2014 before returning just in time for the PBA's 40th season, saw everything that went down with Petronovela.
"Bago ako mag-take over this team, I've been the assistant coach of Petron. Nakita ko yung problema nila. Nawala ako sa team because of a new coach, si Todd Purves, they thought he could fix the team, but to no avail," Austria said when reminded of that infamous time in the San Miguel franchise.
"Quarterfinals, nawala agad. That's the time I was recalled by Boss RSA [Ramon Ang], he told me you'll be the one to handle the team," he added remembering his return to the team during the 2015 Philippine Cup.
That same conference, which happened to be the start of the Beermen's current All-Filipino dynasty, also marked the official end of Petronovela.
And Austria had one simple solution to erase that ugly episode.
"The first thing I did is to talk to the key players, and I told them na my priority is for June Mar Fajardo to get the ball at the post," Austria said.
"Which from there up to now, nags-stick kami doon dahil it seems na all the teams na nakakalaban namin, ang pino-problema nila ay si June Mar. So why take the problem of our opponent? And my players understood what I meant during that time. And I was able to define the roles of the players, and naintiindihan nila, that's why the team right now is parang isang family na," he added.
Considering the Beermen have won four titles, three straight Philippine Cups and one Governors' Cup for good measure, Autria's simple approach has been doing well.
Ending Petronovela, going on a Beeracle run, and now winning the Perpetual Trophy, the next logical step for Austria and the Beermen is to go for a Grand Slam.
However, for the now four-time PBA champion coach, he'll cross the bridge when he gets there.
"Well, many people will think that, but it's really hard to win the import conference," Austria tries to explain.
"Second conference, we're not thinking of Grand Slam because we're the only team with the chance to win the Grand Slam, but one game at a time. Same thing with this All-Filipino, before winning the championship, sinasabi nila na kaya namin dahil that's the only way to lead us to win a championship like this," he added.
Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8