ABL Finals: Jimmy Alapag was destined to be a head coach

Paul Lintag on Apr 29, 2018 06:36 PM
ABL Finals: Jimmy Alapag was destined to be a head coach
Jimmy Alapag is in position to win yet another title but this time, he's gunning for one as a head coach as his San Miguel-Alab Pilipinas are on the verge of capturing the 2018 ABL championship.

Let’s just all be honest here, “Coach Jimmy Alapag” still sounds a little weird.

Right? We’re just not used to knowing that Jimmy Alapag is already a head coach.

What do we know about Jimmy Alapag really? He’s a PBA legend, one that won six titles as a player for Talk ‘N Text. He’s a national team legend. Jimmy is the one that hit the triples that beat South Korea. He’s the one that hit the triples that almost beat Argentina.

He’s the one that hit the triples to beat Senegal.

What else do we know about Jimmy Alapag? He’s a PBA MVP, one that came a win short of winning a Grand Slam. He’s a Perpetual All-Filipino Champion.

He also retired twice from the PBA. During the first one his jersey no. 3 from Talk ‘N Text was retired too. Before the second one, he set the all-time PBA record for most three-pointers made in league history.

What in the world do we know about Jimmy Alapag aside from being a good son, a loving husband, and devoted father? He’s the Mighty Mouse. He’s the Captain.

Well, he’s also now the head coach for San Miguel-Alab Pilipinas in the Asean Basketball League.

But let’s all be honest here, “Coach Jimmy Alapag” still sounds just a little bit weird.

Right? Right. However, for some people, “Coach Jimmy Alapag” was just a matter of time.

It’s destiny.



For Meralco head coach Norman Black, Jimmy is practically natural in his new basketball gig handling Alab Pilipinas.

Alapag won his final title as a PBA player playing under Black. After he came back from his first retirement, Jimmy played for coach Norman with Meralco until he retired a second time.

Once Jimmy knew he was done playing for good, he was able to join Black’s coaching staff with the Bolts.

If there’s one person who might have had a first-hand preview of just what Alapag was capable of doing as a head coach, it would have been Black. And according to the Grand Slam champion mentor, “Coach Jimmy” is not as weird as you would think it is.

“Jimmy is hardworking guy, there was a reason why he was so good as a player,” Black told ABS-CBN Sports when asked about Alapag, the head coach.

“He was the first one in the gym and he was the last one to leave. He puts in the time, even when he was our assistant coach [with Meralco], he would put in the time with the players every single day. He thinks there’s no substitute for hard work and that’s why I think he will be successful moving forward as a head coach,” he added.

While Alapag is only in his first season as a head coach, Black believes that his foundation has been set a long time ago when he was still a player.

There are several factors to be considered when one is judging if a coach is great or not. There are several more to think about for former players that are transitioning into coaching.

As a player-turned-coach himself, Black knows what it took to be successful and he believes Jimmy has what it takes now after working with him for close to a decade.

“Coaching is a little bit about instinct, a little bit about experience,” coach Norman said.

“But it’s still about hard work. You really have to put in the time, you have to watch a lot of tape, study the other team that you’re going up against as well as to be able to figure out what strategy you’re gonna use for your team. Sometimes you have to stay up until 2-3 in the morning just to watch some tape and be prepared for games. Jimmy has that in him already, that’s innate as far as I’m concerned. I think he’ll be a great coach,” he added.



Everyone knows that Jimmy Alapag is pretty much a basketball genius.

We all saw it when he played in the PBA for TNT and Meralco. We saw it too when he played for Gilas Pilipinas.

His genius extended from the court to the sidelines now. But Jimmy is also a genius behind the scenes, which is key to his early success as a head coach.

“Yung hindi alam ng mga fans is yung kung paano mag-trabaho si Jimmy,” KaTropa guard Jayson Castro said.

Castro was one half of the fabled Jimmy and Jayson point guard combo that won a lot of games for TNT and Gilas. The Blur is basically the heir apparent to Alapag in more ways than one.

“Lahat ginagawa niya, mag-mula sa viewing [of game tapes], pag-edit, dun pa lang makikita mo na eager siya matuto talaga. Makikita mo siya na every detail ng games nila, pinagaaralan niya. Kaya hindi ka na rin magtataka na nasa Finals sila,” he added.

Harvey Carey, Jimmy’s longtime teammate and PBA batch mate, adds that Alapag always did his best work when no one was around.

It’s no surprise that Alapag has Alab sharp night in and night out in their current ABL Finals run.

“He’s a hard worker and he loves to watch film,” Carey said on his old buddy.

“I know that the way that his work ethic is as a player, it’s the same as a coach. I think it rubs off, his confidence as a coach rubs off on his players. The fruits of his labor are showing right now, they’re in the Finals,” he added. 

More than the strict attention to detail, another aspect that makes “Jimmy Alapag the head coach,” work is the incredible balance Jimmy has done with Alab Pilipinas.

Having world imports in Renaldo Balkman and Justin Brownlee on the team helped of course, but Alapag had to make sure his talented team performed up to expectations.

That’s easier said than done, obviously.

“I’ve seen almost all of [Alab’s games], yes,” Norman Black said. “Jimmy is also fortunate his imports are really good but he’s been able to utilize them very well I think.”

“He’s given Ray Parks the freedom to be able to do what he has to do on the basketball court. He’s organized them but at the same time he’s allowed them to play, that’s basically what you have to do as a coach,” he added.



Sure, “coach Jimmy” still sounds weird but it’s here already, best to start getting used to it.

It was destined to happen anyway.

“It’s weird seeing him up and down the sidelines, directing the players. Even when he became our team manager in 2015, it was weird to look down the bench and see him in civilian clothes,” Carey said on what it feels like to see Jimmy in long sleeves and slacks instead of a jersey with no. 3 in it.

“But you know, Jimmy has always been equipped as a leader. He was an extension of the coach while he was on the floor all these years. Whether he was a player or when he became an assistant coach, he was a natural leader, destined to be a head coach,” he added.

Some great players actually struggle when they start venturing into coaching. However, the fact that Alapag was a well-respected legend back in his playing days actually helped him with Alab.

Known as a player’s coach, Jimmy commands respect not only because of his basketball credentials but because of his actual qualities as a tried and tested leader.

“He’s very understandable and I think he’s a player’s coach. He was a player not too long ago and he knows how to relate to certain guys. He knows how to talk to certain guys nad he knows how to motivate guys a certain way,” Carey said.

“He’s been a leader from Day 1, I’ve known Jimmy since we were in college when we played against each other. He’s always been vocal,” he added.

In his first season as head coach, Alapag has Alab Pilipinas in position to win the ABL title.

After a 0-3 start to their season, Alab is now on win away from the championship, leading the best-of-5 Finals against Thailand’s Mono Vampire, 2-1, as of press time.

If Alapag pulls this one off, he’ll win a title in his first year as a head coach. That will surprise literally no one, considering he won a PBA title 15 years ago on his first try with the old Talk ‘N Text Phone Pals.

“He’s a winner,” Carey says of his teammate from that 2003 title team.

“I’ve known him since college, his teams always won. He came into the PBA, won championships. In the national team, he hit probably the biggest shot in history. I know that he will be successful in his new role, as the leader of Alab,” he added.

Sure, “coach Jimmy” still sounds weird but it’s here, best to start getting used to it already.

Well, for some it might be quite a struggle adjusting.

“Hanggang ngayon tawag ko sa kanya ‘Cap’ eh, kasi siya yung pinaka naging team captain naming na hindi ko makakalimutan,” Castro said of his former backcourt partner.

“At the same time, yung respeto ko talaga sa kanyan, nandun pa rin,” he added.

Call Jimmy Alapag, “coach” or whatever you're still comfortable with. But just so you know, Jimmy Alapag was meant to be a head coach sooner rather than later.

He was born to do it. It’s his destiny.

Catch Game 4 of the ABL Finals on April 30, Monday, 4:30 p.m. LIVE on S+A channel 23, S+A HD channel 166 and via livestream.



Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8

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