MANILA, Philippines – Two-time PBA champion Leo Austria was awarded Coach of the Year during the annual PBA Press Corps Awards night on Wednesday, September 16 at the Century Park Hotel in Manila.
The 57-year old head coach of the San Miguel Beermen received the award named for legendary coach Virgilio ‘Baby’ Dalupan after he copped two out of the 3 conference championships in the PBA’s previous 40th season, including the Philippine Cup. It was just Austria’s rookie year as PBA coach.
“Hindi ako makapaniwala sa kinaroroonan ko ngayon. Noong araw nakikinood lang ako sa TV ng kapitbahay upang masubaybayan ko ang PBA. Noong panahon na ‘yon, ang PBA parang laban ni Manny Pacquiao, walang tao sa lansangan,” Austria said during his speech. “Ako po ay nagulat dahil bigla na lang ako nandito sa harap ninyo at tumanggap ng award as Coach of the Year.”
(I can’t believe where I am right now. Back in the day I was only watching the PBA through my neighbor’s TV. That time, the PBA was like the fights today of Manny Pacquiao, there was nobody on the streets. I’m amazed I’m suddenly here before you accepting the award of Coach of the Year.)
“Para sa akin ito ay isang malaking karangalan na pwede ko ipagmalaki (This is a huge honor for me that I can be proud of),” he added.
Austria previously mentored the Adamson Soaring Falcons in the UAAP for 7 years and led the San Miguel Beermen to the Asian Basketball League championship in 2013 before taking the job in the local pro league.
The 1985 PBA Rookie of the Year has no plans of stopping at two titles as coach as he looks to steer his loaded team to yet another trophy in the upcoming 2016 Philippine Cup, which starts October 18.
“Ang tropeyo na ito ay magsisilbing inspirasyon sa aking pagco-coach at aking pagbubutihin pa at pagyayamanin ang aking kaalaman para maitaguyod ko ang aking koponan (This trophy will serve as inspiration for my coaching and I will work harder and expand my knowledge to make my team better),” he said.
“Ang trabaho ng isang coach nandiyan lahat ng pressure. Sabi nga, meron dalawang uri ng coach: isang natanggal na at isang tatanggalin pa (A coach’s job has all the pressure. They say there are only two types of coaches: one who’s already fired, and one who’s about to get fired),” Austria added later on.
“I’m very proud sa mga ginagawa ko dahil marami akong player na napasikat (with what I’m doing because I’ve helped make a name for players nobody knew about). And that is my philosophy, how to develop players that are unknown. For me this is a fulfillment more than anything else. Dahil sa pinagdaanan ko, gusto ko rin makatulong sa kapwa ko (Because of what I’ve been through, I want to help others)."
The recipient of the other major recognition, the Accel-Executive of the Year award, is last season’s PBA chairman and Talk ’N Text alternate governor Patrick Gregorio.
The soft-spoken executive earned the award named after the legendary Crispa Redmanizers team owner Danny Floro after a year that saw the PBA expand to a new record of 12 teams with the entry of KIA Motors and Blackwater.
The league also celebrated its 40th anniversary with a lavish opening ceremony that attracted a new all-time crowd attendance of 52,612 at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
During Gregorio’s term, a comprehensive PBA documentary was produced, Asian imports were introduced in the season-ending Governors’ Cup, and the league transitioned into a new organizational structure with the appointment of former commissioner Chito Salud as the first-ever president and chief executive officer of the PBA.
Also feted were back-to-back PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo as well as Gilas Pilipinas rookies Calvin Abueva and Terrence Romeo.
Below is the full list of awardees:
Virgilio ‘Baby’ Dalupan Coach of the Year: Leo Austria
Accel-Executive of the Year: Patrick Gregorio
Gerry’s Grill-Defensive Player of the Year: June Mar Fajardo
William ‘Bogs' Adornado Comeback Player of the Year: Alex Cabagnot
Mr. Quality Minutes: Calvin Abueva
Order of Merit: Paul Lee
Scoring Champion: Terrence Romeo
All-Rookie Team: Stanley Pringle, Chris Banchero, Jericho Cruz, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, Jake Pascual