Terrence Romeo’s first practice with San Miguel Beer on Thursday was not just all about him joining his new team.
There was an interesting figure that showed up yesterday morning at the Acropolis Greens gym; someone who used to be the tormentor of the Beermen in their past battles but now an ally in continuing the winning tradition of the most successful franchise in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
Jimmy Alapag was formally introduced by San Miguel top official Robert Non as one of the assistants of coach Leo Austria in the coming 44th season, which fires off on 13 January.
The one-time Most Valuable Player used to be identified with the Manny V. Pangilinan (MVP) group as he started his career with Talk ‘N Text as its 10th overall pick in 2003 and even came out of retirement and played for Meralco.
He won all of his six PBA titles while playing for KaTropa and bagged the Rookie of the Year in 2003 and the MVP award in 2011 while donning the Talk ‘N Text uniform.
Alapag was the face of the 2013 Gilas Pilipinas team that qualified for the 2014 International Basketball Federation (FIBA) World Cup in Spain under head coach Chot Reyes.
Later on, he was absorbed by Reyes and became part of the coaching staff after his retirement in 2015. Alapag was also named team manager of KaTropa that year and became a team consultant of the Bolts in 2016.
But things turned sour the following year when Alapag accepted the head coaching job at Alab Pilipinas, which was initially bankrolled by Tanduay but after some misunderstandings, San Miguel carried the responsibility as Alab won the Asean Basketball League that season.
“He was hurt by the cold treatment,” said a source, who is privy to the issue but requested anonymity.
Alapag was removed from the coaching staff of Gilas under Reyes two days before the team departed for Melbourne in their first meeting in the FIBA qualifying window. The Aussies won that contest, 84-68.
“But he has to move on. And accepting the assistant coach role is one of his options. This (San Miguel contract) is different from his Alab job and he signed two years with Alab,” the source added.
Being with San Miguel is a reunion of sorts for the 41-year old Alapag as he’s reunited with his Gilas teammates Marcio Lassiter and June Mar Fajardo.
And the acquisition of Romeo and Paul Zamar, both from off-season trades, will make Alapag very useful in transferring his knowledge to the San Miguel guards.
“He’s respected by the players,” said a team insider. “And I think he’s ripe to coach in the PBA.”
Alapag expressed gratitude to San Miguel Corporation executives, saying that he’s looking forward to contribute to the franchise that pocketed a league-best 25 PBA titles.
“History speaks for itself for what you guys have already done in the PBA. I’m just here to help in whatever shape and form,” he said after Non formally introduced him to the rest of the squad.
“If you guys need me, I’m just here and the goal every season is to win and that’s what I’m all about.”
Jumping ship is not new in the PBA as Jong Uichico, who won eight of his nine PBA titles while handling San Miguel and Ginebra, surprised the league after accepting the Talk ‘N Text offer in 2014 after spending most of his career, as player and coach with the Danding Cojuangco franchise.