THE biggest dreamer is now the saddest signore. And I can only commiserate with him.
He will never admit it, but coach Leo Austria had passionately harbored hammering home the Grand Slam this year.
His winning the first two conferences gave Leo the opportunity to gun, dream, for the Big One—Grand Slam—as a crowning glory for his San Miguel Beer crew.
It was a chance that rarely presents itself—as rare as a diamond in the roughs.
Since the PBA’s (Philippine Basketball Association) birth in 1975, only four coaches have nabbed the Triple Crown.
Of the four, one had passed on, one is retired and the other two are still very much around.
Baby “The Maestro” Dalupan, who had recently died of natural causes due to old age, gave Crispa and the league the first Grand Slam in 1976.
Tommy Manotoc, who piloted Crispa to its second Slam in 1983, is now happily back to his old flame: golf.
And both Slam champs Norman Black (1989 San Miguel Beer) and Tim Cone (1996 Alaska and 2014 San Mig Coffee) are not only still slugging it out but appear tantalizingly close to another championship showdown.
Not noticed that much though are the identities of those that inflicted Leo Austria’s fatal Slam-killing stabs.
Cruelly enough, they are none other than Black and Cone.
Black bugged his Bolts to rally to the death and succeeded, coaxing Meralco to erase an 18-point deficit en route to a 104-101 win over San Miguel Beer in the eliminations.
In sum, that victory virtually derailed dreams of an SMB Slam.
Without that crazy collapse, SMB would have proceeded to own a twice-to-beat luxury against the No. 7, virtually securing easy passage to the semifinals and possibly ensuring a Finals stint for a shot at the Slam.
Thus, in its next game, against Barangay Ginebra, SMB just couldn’t get over that embarrassing meltdown against Meralco and lost by a bizarre 30 points to the Gin Kings.
It was a most shameful exit for the Beermen, who were simply highly fancied to reach the PBA Governors’ Finals after their beautiful back-to-back conference triumphs.
Curiously, Cone, as Ginebra coach, delivered the deadliest blow to Leo Austria’s Slam bid.
Triple Crown coaches are also quite that “selfish.”
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on October 01, 2017.
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