San Miguel Beer is champ again for the 21st time

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  • IT pays to hire an old hand. That’s San Miguel Beer’s biggest lesson learned in the case of Arizona “AZ” Reid III. Reid was a four-time import of Rain or Shine before Ramon S. Ang (RSA), the president/CEO of San Miguel Corp., took him in as SMB import in the just-ended PBA Governors’ Cup. But the move almost backfired as AZ started with the PBA’s oldest franchise on the wrong foot: He overate and got hospitalized for food poisoning. Kare-kare was the culprit that put him on dextrose in a three day hospital misadventure.

    In SMB’s first two games, AZ was a literal limp noodle as the Beermen suffered humiliating back-to- back setbacks. Humbled, Reid was set to lose his job, only to be saved by RSA, whose patience and foresight saved the homeward-bound 6-foot5 scoring machine.

    Despite being only 70 percent healthy, Reid helped SMB snap its two-game losing slide with a game three win, putting the Beermen back in business. Six more victories in dizzying succession would make SMB the 7-2 leader and would next secure a coveted twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.

    picSan-miguel

    After a scary finish following a winner-takeall Game 2 win against Meralco, the Beermen went on to demolish Rain or Shine behind a vengeance-filled performance by Reid. As if to resent his getting booted out as Rain or Shine import, Reid defied every former teammate assigned to guard him, powering SMB to a resounding 3-1 triumph to enter the Finals.

    With a first PBA crown within reach once more— Reid had twice brought Rain or Shine to the Finals but failed to close it out each time—the double-degree holder wouldn’t be denied this time. He played packing his knees with steely power and keeping his hot hands on fire virtually every single game to finally nail a maiden crown in his fifth season.
    Never mind that he did it without a best import plum tucked under his belt.

    Romeo Travis was the best import winner this season but, appallingly if not embarrassingly, Reid repeatedly routed him in SMB’s 4-0 massacre of Alaska. Travis may be the best in both stats and in the eyes of pseudo-choosers going to the Finals but, alas, in the best-ofseven, not once in four games did he prove he was deserving of the accolade.
    Reid was.

    The Finals figures fractured the Travis myth of invincibility so grotesquely that in four fruitless games for Alaska, Travis merely milked 69 points from silly scores of 14-23-17-15. That was an awful 17.25 points a game power failure.

    In contrast, Reid romped away with 143 points from sizzling scores of 32-37-41- 33. That was an awesome 35.75 points a game smash hit.

    Nobody knewwhat made Reid on fire all series long. But in his victory speech, Robert Non, SMB’s governor to the PBA board, said: “Mr. Reid is, indeed, a man of his words. He promised to win a crown for SMB. He just did that!” Before the Finals, Reid had hinted of retiring after the championship.

    But SMB coach Leo Austria said Reid is “too young” to retire and “he is welcome to return to us anytime.”

    How true. Reid, a father of one [AZ IV] from South Carolina who had previously won a title playing in Germany, is only 29 years old.
    If he decides to make another crack at a PBA crown, who is he going to call?
    RSA, who else?

    And if Reid should be back in the 41ste season of Asia’s first play-for-pay basketball league, he may yet increase San Miguel Beer’s 21 PBA titles—the most by any team in the 40-year history of the loop.

    THAT’S IT Happy birthday to Malaya Sol M. Sadiwa, who turned 10 on July 21. Greetings coming from her brother Ikap and her parents Aya and Ricky, her cousins Kuya Mumu, Ate Dada and Kuya Biley, Ninong Dayong, Nanay Soh and Tatay Ah. Here’s wishing Mayasoh many more birthdays to come … And didn’t Danny “Sir John” Isla, the Lexus Manila president, also turn a new leaf that day? Cheers for beers!

    * * *
    Austria makes Pinoy proud as a champion coach SAN Miguel Beer winning the PBA Governors’ Cup crown on July 17 bears watching.
    While it may be true that Americans can coach teams to victory—with singular savvy at times—it doesn’t mean though they are much better than our homegrown mentors.
    Two Americans have won Grand Slams in Norman Black (San Miguel Beer in 1989) and in Tim Cone (Alaska in 1993 and Purefoods in 2014).
    But before them were Baby Dalupan who won the 1976 Slam for Crispa and Tommy Manotoc the 1983 Slam also for Crispa.
    Ron Jacobs was a oneof-a-kind American coach, piloting Philippine teams to championships both in the PBA and in overseas battles (Jones Cup and ABC). It was just unfortunate that the man discovered by Danding Cojuangco in 1981 was struck down by a stroke of nearly 20 years back and hasn’t fully recovered since.

    Black was the assistant of Robert Jaworski when the Philippines placed second behind China in the 1990 Asian Games and Cone coached the Centennial team to a bronze finish in the 1998 Asiad.
    We got another foreigner in Rajko Toroman to pilot our team but, sadly, it didn’t get us far. Toroman did his thing in the PBA—also without success.
    We went back to homegrown talent through Chot Reyes, who responded by putting us back to the 2014 Fiba Worlds after a 40- year absence.

    Meanwhile, San Miguel Beer, the PBA’s oldest franchise it being a founding league member in 1975, hired American coach Todd Purves in 2014.

    After an unsuccessful stint, Purves was replaced by Leo Austria, the fearless Filipino who mentored San Miguel to victory in the ABL (Asean Basketball League) Finals against Purves and his Indonesian crew.

    The move to rehire Austria—a bold ploy indeed typical of San Miguel Corp. President/CEO Ramon S. Ang’s uncharacteristic leadership style—would prove pivotal, if not magical.

    In just one season, Austria, the pride and joy of Sariaya, Quezon, bred from humble beginnings, won two of the season’s three conferences—starting with the Philippine Cup in his first try at SMC.

    It wasn’t easy, of course, since he had to hurdle the stigma of elimination in the second conference to win the third—a sweet sweep of 4-0 at that of powerhouse Alaska.
    “Thank God for everything,” Austria said. “Two championships in one season is not bad.”
    I couldn’t agree more.
    * * *
    Reid, Fajardo deserving of PBA honors
    WITH every single Beerman from coach Leo Austria’s 14-man lineup a hero in the San Miguel Beer victory over Alaska, may I still say, with all due respect, that the biggest heroes in SMB’s spectacular 4-0 triumph were AZ Reid and June Mar Fajardo.
    It was a collective effort no doubt that made that SMB sweet sweep possible in the best-of-seven Finals for the PBA Governors’ Cup.
    It was sweeter than the first one if only because a sweep secured by any team is as rare as a Mona Lisa smile.
    And the first one, of course, was SMB’s win over Alaska in the All-Filipino Cup first conference of the just- ended season.

    Both victories had significant, if not contrasting, impact. For, while the first triumph made the Beermen the best crew sans import, the second installed the brew
    makers as masters nonpareil in an offering where the best and the brightest of imports dished off their world-renown wares.

    Not even SMB’s pulsating 4-3 win in the All- Filipino could not detract from the fact it happened as a result of team effort—capped by Arwind Santos’ magical, marginal three with ticks left for that heartrending 80-78 victory.

    And while SMB sputtered in the Commissioner’s Cup, its huge rebound by winning the concluding conference had erased all talk of a fluke the Beermen had eked out in the season opener.
    With Fajardo, the 6- foot-10 wall willing but not wailing against all bumps and nudges coming his way, running away with a record haul of 5 unbelievable awards, just imagine what this gentle giant from Pinagbungahan, Cebu, can achieve more— considering he is only 25. He has won the season MVP, Finals MVP, a slot in both the Mythical 5 and All- Defensive Teams and—look at this—also the Sportsmanship Award. I have yet to see one winning that many in one season in the 40-year history of the league.

    And what about Reid? He had 143 points (32-37-41- 33) in 4 won-games for SMB to only 69 by best import awardee Romeo Travis (14- 23-17-15) of Alaska.
    To cap his smashing success, Reid, personally handpicked by SMC boss Ramon S. Ang as SMB import, banged in 6 of the 9 Beermen triples in Game 4 to anchor that 91-81 title clincher.
    Reid may not be the best import, but he was the better import than Travis.

     

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