San Miguel Beer is now aiming for the rare grand slam, a feat that only five squads were able to accomplish in the 42 years of existence of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
The Beermen were champions again after finishing off TNT KaTropa in six games of their best-of-seven championship series last Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Now, San Miguel is bracing to sweep the three-conference season.
“Winning a grand slam is a long shot, so we have to prepare and be ready because all the teams are going to try to stop us,” said Beermen head coach Leo Austria minutes after hoisting his fifth PBA trophy.
The legendary Crispa Redmanizers were the first to score a grand slam in 1976 – repeating the feat in 1983.
San Miguel was the second franchise to bag the hat trick in 1989; the season when Austria was just a starter with Shell and a certain Banjie Paras took the league by storm after winning the Rookie of the Year and the Most Valuable Player (MVP) trophies in the same season.
Alaska then swept the 1996 season behind the talented crew led by Johnny Abarrientos, Jojo Lastimosa and Bong Hawkins. Lastly, San Mig Coffee (now Star) accomplished the last grand slam in the league in 2014 under Tim Cone, the same architect behind the Aces’1996 feat.
Now, Austria will try to join the ranks of Baby Dalupan, Tommy Manotoc, Norman Black and Cone – coaches who have a grand slam under their belts.
But Austria knows it won’t be easy, as the remaining 11 teams will go all out to deny them the accomplishment.
“Talk ‘N Text (TNT) and Ginebra will be strong next conference,” said Austria, who is bringing back Wendell McKines as their import for the season-ending Governors’ Cup, which kicks off on July 19.
“He’s (McKines) in shape. He is really focused in the next conference,” said Austria of McKines, who had stints with Alaska and Rain or Shine.
Team governor Robert Non said Austria and the rest of the Beermen have no other choice but to aim for the grand slam.
“We are already here and we have no choice but to aspire for the top and win the grand slam,” said Non.
It was the Beermen’s 24th overall title – fifth in their last eight conferences. The victory ended their 17-year title drought in the Commissioner’s Cup.
Finals MVP Alex Cabagnot and Best Player of the Conference winner Chris Ross powered the squad to the title while Charles Rhodes, Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter and June Mar Fajardo led their offense in the six-game series.
Austria will give the team a brief respite before returning to practice.