San Miguel Beer is on the verge of winning their second grand slam and with the way SMB Coach Leo Austria is running their show… this may not be a laughable thought.
Unlike previous seasons, San Miguel actually had an okay import to present their selves as near unstoppable. Before Charles Rhodes sent the Beermen to Commish Cup heaven, the undersized Arizona Reid had to save the Beermen from a humiliating 0-4 start in 2015 (no thanks to Ronald Roberts). During 2016, the Beermen had to call on AZ again because otherwise super import Tyler Wilkerson did the unthinkable and left the Beermen high and dry.
Austria has this Slam Dunk-like rotation wherein his best five play for close to 40 minutes. In some ways, Austria is just exploiting a fail-safe lineup at its finest. This rotation is similar to what he did with the Adamson Soaring Falcons when he almost led the squad to a UAAP Championship (it had the likes of Lester Alvarez, Eric Camson, Alex Nuyles, Jan Colina, Jerick Canada, Janus Lozada, Roider Cabrera, and Rodney Brondial if I am not mistaken). The downside of this rotation is wear and tear – and hopefully June Mar Fajardo, Arwind Santos, Alex Cabagnot, Chris Ross, and Marcio Lassiter will have the proper support from Ronald Tubid, Gabby Espinas, Yancy de Ocampo, Brian Heruela, Keith Agovida, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, Arnold Van Opstal, and others.
For as long as they are winning I guess… these guys can sacrifice their personal ambitions.
Now for the fun part. San Miguel has the chance to annex a 25th title in the 2017 PBA Governors’ Cup. A Governors’ Cup victory will also give the Beermen its second grand slam. The Crispa Redmanizers won two grand slams in 1976 and 1983 with Abet Guidaben, Atoy Co, Philip Cezar, Bernie Fabiosa, Freddie Hubalde, and Tito Varela part of both incarnations. Tim Cone is the only coach to win two grand slams when he led Alaska in 1996 and San Mig Coffee during the 2013-14 PBA season. Talk N Text won the first two conferences of the 2010-11 season but no thanks to the Petron Blaze Boosters, they blew that chance. Six other teams share the same distinction. These teams consist of Toyota in 1975, Crispa in 1977, Great Taste in 1985, Tanduay in 1986, Sunkist in 1995, and Alaska in 1998.
So from this moment on, the Beermen are chasing history.
The great thing about Ross and Cabagnot’s dominating Commissioner’s Cup is that it leaves June Mar virtually fresh for the Govs Cup grind. Fajardo had Rhodes to step up in his place and with the imports 6’6 and lower, The Kraken is poised to unleash hell on his foes.
But then, there’s an upside for non-San Miguel fans. For starters, Wendell McKines isn’t as revered as reigning Best Import Allen Durham, Justin Brownlee from the defending champs, and even scoring powerhouse Eugene Phelps. McKines led Rain or Shine to semifinal finish in 2015 and a quarterfinal spot two years prior.
Sure, San Miguel is seen by many as a team of minimal flaws but seasons prior to their dominance… they were also seen by many as a team only good in theory.
Perhaps this is the right time for Wendell McKines to unleash his true potential?
There is also an internal struggle if one of their players is secretly opportunistic. As mentioned, Fajardo could be in line for his fourth consecutive MVP trophy but due to a so-so Commissioner’s Cup, a guy like Alex Cabagnot or perhaps Commish Cup BPC Chris Ross can go for the plum. Moreover, the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup is just a month from now.
This season will be a historic one for Austria and his Beermen.
San Miguel could be one of six teams to win three conferences in one season… or one of eight teams to almost win the grand slam.