Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Grounded Falcons

On my way home from dinner Thursday night with some friends at the Fort (I had a cross-country conference call at 10pm so I had to leave early), I got a call from Coach Leo Austria. We talked at length about the disastrous game they played earlier in the day and other matters. Here's the story.

Grounded Falcons
words by rick olivares
& pix by martin romero

One of the toughest jobs in basketball is building or maybe more appropriately, re-building a program that was wracked and fraught with losing, ineptitude, and infighting. It is tough to inculcate a sense of pride and belonging when the team has not had much.

The year between stints with Adamson may have done harm too for the players relapsed into bad habits even attitudes. The coach knew of it then and realizes it even more now -- it's impossible to put together a team with only two months of preparation. Prior to his ballyhooed return to San Marcelino, the players' dorm well, has been a den of vice. To be very clear, there is nothing about debauchery or cannibalistic rituals going on, but one thing is clear: team discipline and team rules have been broken. And with the seed in place, team management fears it might infect those on Team B or the rookies. In previous years, they had talented line-ups and players who could offset their excess with some great play (although it didn't always mean that they came away with a win). But the new team is raw and unfocused.

Alex Nuyles is from Bicol and he knows nothing of organized basketball. He came to Adamson and asked for a chance to play. You can say that these are his baby steps. Michael Galinato and Marc Agustin earlier went to La Salle but it's hard to imagine good players leaving a solid program for something lesser. Galinato has a tremendous upside and in limited minutes and inconsistent play, he has shown what he can do. Austria claims not be a miracle worker but he knows his hoops and he knows he can teach. "It's in my blood," he says.

Austria admires the Ateneo basketball program not because his son plays for the team but because of the talent, school pride, intelligence, and values about the team. "Norman has done a very good job. College basketball has been good for him," he glowingly says of the Blue Eagles' mentor.

Austria knows that Adamson is not Ateneo or La Salle and he knows he and the school have their work cut out for them.

Earlier, his Falcons were so affected by the benching of Allan Santos, Marc Agustin, and Paul Gonzalgo that even before they stepped onto the court at the Araneta Coliseum they were a beaten team. If one tuned in to the TV or walked right in, they might have wondered if the shot clock was not in use thus Adamson's low score. Only they weren't even close to being the new poster boys for basketball ineptitude, they were a demoralized team. Jing Ruiz, who was a star in Letran with Dong Libed with then NCAA Champion Letran (he also played for Shell with Austria in the pros) stood close to the far end of the bench his arms folded. He hung his head and bit his lip. Gonzalgo, now in his final year and playing the best ball of his career in Adamson wrapped his head in a towel.

Before the start of the season, the coaching staff and the team vets had a long talk. They were to be provided with all the playing time and opportunities to strut their wares. Hopefully, it will translate into another play-off run and from there a productive PBL career and hopefully, the pros where their father carved out their names and deeds on the hardwood. The players were excited but forgot to check their ego and their past times outside the locker room. "The players are terrible at times but only because they are unfocused. Whoever is supposed to be an inspiration has become a distraction."

This early, Austria is talking about the future. When I remind him that he has a game on Sunday, he wonders aloud if any of his players would like to show up. The talent is there. And on any given day, they can upset even the teams with the bigger programs. "That's how good they are," emphasized the coach. "Pero that's also how bad they can be. They do not realize their potential."

With the average shelf life of a pro player now at four years what with the influx of Fil-Ams and domination of imports, players should be doubly aware of their mortality as a player. After former Ateneo Blue Eagle Claiford Arao suffered a second knee injury that for the moment derailed his PBA dreams, he was thankful that he studied and has a diploma. "Buti na lang..," he could only say.

The school management backs up Austria's disciplinary action and have taken steps to ensure that it will never happen again. But as for the team?

We'll find out how they respond on Sunday when they faced a wounded UE Red Warriors team.

No comments:

Post a Comment