By REYNALD MAGALLON
San Miguel Beer is taking a new direction starting in the 2023 Governors’ Cup after announcing a new head coach for the Beermen.
Former assistant Jorge Gallent is set to take over the coaching reins for the league’s winningest franchise from erstwhile coach Leo Austria who is set to take a break from coaching although will remain with the team as its consultant.
Team manager Gee Abanilla confirmed the development on Saturday, Jan. 21 after the PBA posted a slideshow of the team’s official lineups for the season-ending conference.
He explained that Austria decided to take a sabbatical from coaching due personal reasons.
“Coach Leo met with management a few days ago and informed us that he wishes to take a coaching sabbatical for personal reasons starting the Governor’s Cup,” said Abanilla in a statement.
“We respect his decision and we understand his situation as we fully support whatever he needs. With this development, he will remain with the team as a consultant and we have elevated Coach Jorge Gallent as the Head Coach. Coach Jorge will take over bringing with him PBA head coaching experience and an exciting future for the franchise,” he added
The development marked the end of Austria’s successful stint as head coach of SMB since 2014 where he won nine PBA titles including a historic five-peat in the Philippine Cup. He last steered the Beermen to a title in the 2022 Philippine Cup before rumors of a coaching change at the SMB camp came out during the Commissioner’s Cup.
Gallent, though, is not entirely new to the Beermen having been at the SMB bench since 2011. He also took charge of the team when Austria was put to health and safety protocol, guiding the team to six wins in the latter part of the eliminations up until Game 1 of its semis series against the Bay Area last conference.
Prior to his SMB job, Gallent steered the team of Rep. Mike Romero to a record seven straight championships in the now-defunct Philippine Basketball League.
It remains to be seen however whether Austria will be present at the bench during SMB games as he takes the consultant role – a setup that SMB have done in the past with foreign coaches in Todd Purves and Rajko Toroman.