Tanduay Alab Pilipinas had an impressive showing in their season opener against the defending champions Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Team last Sunday. They fought bravely, but still lost, 92-89, in a highly contested battle between two proud teams.
Sunday marked the beginning of a new era for the Philippine squad with coach Jimmy Alapag at the helm. The decorated ex-PBA player is not only a hometown hero for Filipino fans, but he’s also earned the respect and adoration of people in the Asian region with his exploits for Gilas Pilipinas.
The game was not only a debut for the team from the Philippines and Hong Kong, but also for Alapag as the man calling the shots on the sidelines.
“When you’ve played for so long, it’s like, it’s a much different perspective,” he said about his first coaching experience. “Because when you’re playing, you’re focused on making the shot or making the assist, but now when you’re coaching, you’re trying to put the pieces together to make it work with the five guys on the court.”
Alapag played for 15 years in the Philippines Basketball Association (PBA) and won six championships. He has seen countless battles in the PBA as well as in FIBA competition. He’s a proven winner with a ton of experience that he’s willing to share to his new team.
One of the things he observed in Alab’s loss to the defending champions was their problem with taking care of the ball.
“I think it was really a tale of two halves. In the first half – 15 turnovers. Second half we only had three,” explained Alapag. “Having 15 turnovers, giving Eastern’s 23 turnover points in the first half put us in a pretty big hole.”
“I thought our effort in the second half was much better but I think the first half really hurt us, the turnovers that we had,” he added. “In a 40-minute game, it’s really important that you work at a much more efficient rate. A lot of these guys with PBA experience are used to 48 minutes. When you play 40, especially in international play, it forces you to play at a much more efficient rate.”
Alab did have a better outing in the last two quarters. They outscored Eastern in the third period, and nearly ran away with the game towards the end if not were the heroics of Christian Stanhardinger.
“You give credit to Eastern. They’re the champion team for a reason,” he graciously commended his opponent. “I know how excited Christian [Standhardinger] was to play at home. He came out and played really well.”
Alab came up short, but Alapag was happy with the performances of his imports Reggie Okosa and Ivan Johnson. Okosa had 28 points and 12 rebounds while Johnson, who happens to be a former teammate of Alapag, had 17 points and 15 boards.
“Even despite the loss, there were a lot of positives we can build on,” he confidently said. “We just can’t afford to put ourselves in that big of a hole in the first half against the defending champion.”
As for himself, the Filipino basketball legend was humble in defeat. For his first game as a head coach, he simply rated himself as “just okay.”
“Just like the players have to get back to work in practice. I’ll do my part watching video and making sure that we’re better on the 29th against Singapore,” he shared.
Will we ever see the man they call the “Mighty Mouse” play in the ABL?
“No, no. Somewhere deep, deep, deep inside, a little voice might be in there you know saying to check in, but I’m done playing,” he said with a laugh. “I’m completely focused now in trying to help our team. And put our guys in a position to be successful and win games.”