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PBA: Purves out, Austria in?

LEO Austria

by Waylon Galvez

Manila, Philippines – San Miguel Beer is expected to name a new head coach for next season, and most likely it’ll be former Rookie of the Year Leo Austria who will assume the post when action resumes for the 40th anniversary of the Philippine Basketball Association.

There is no official announcement yet on the coaching change but a source yesterday confirmed that management is looking at moving Austria up as the next coach of the Beermen.

“It’s possible, but there’s no final decision yet on the coaching changes. It is still being finalized,” said the source who asked not to be named.

A revamp at San Miguel Beer is expected after the team failed to win a championship in the previous season – or even make the Finals – despite having a solid unit led by eventual season MVP June Mar Fajardo and 2013 league MVP Arwind Santos.

San Miguel Beer – then under the name Petron Blaze – started the 2013 season with Gee Abanilla as mentor although he was eventually replaced by Biboy Ravanes after the Beermen were ousted by Rain or Shine during their best-of-seven semifinal series.

In the Commissioner’s Cup and the Governors’ Cup, the setup saw Ravanes and American team consultant Todd Purves sharing coaching responsibility, but it was Purves who called the shots in crucial moments of the game.

Purves actually had a year left on his contract with the Beermen, but team management decided to buy out the remainder of his deal. Spin.ph first broke the news last Thursday.

The second-seeded Beermen, despite carrying a twice-to-beat incentive in the quarters of the Commissioner’s Cup, lost to No. 7 Air21 in their three-game showdown.

In the Governors’ Cup, SMB lost to sister-team San Mig Super Coffee in the quarterfinals.

Austria, 56, is not new to handling a PBA team having once served as coach of the Welcoat Paints Dragons for two seasons (2006 to 2008). He also was the mentor of Shell back in 2004.

Austria’s coaching record in the PBA is 30-66. He won a title with Shark and Welcoat Paints in the now defunct Philippine Basketball League (PBL), and also guided the San Miguel Beermen to the championship in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) last year.

Austria, the 1985 PBA Rookie of the Year, played for Shell, ended his coaching stint with Adamson in the last UAAP Season.