Philippine basketball

Austria sad to see Arwind go, but San Miguel needed to make changes

Delfin Dioquino
Austria sad to see Arwind go, but San Miguel needed to make changes

FAREWELL. Arwind Santos bids San Miguel goodbye after 11 successful seasons with the franchise.

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Leo Austria admits trading Arwind Santos was a heartbreaking decision as the veteran forward played a huge role in his success as San Miguel coach

The San Miguel Beermen felt like it was time to shake things up.

It just happened that it was Arwind Santos who San Miguel needed to let go as it traded the veteran forward to NorthPort to acquire Vic Manuel in a one-on-deal on Monday, November 8.

Trading Santos came as a surprising move for the Beermen considering the former PBA MVP helped turn the franchise into a dynasty during his 11-season stint with the team.

“We had to make some chances because for the last two conferences, we’re stagnant and we need some changes,” said San Miguel coach Leo Austria in a mix of Filipino and English.

“It was saddening that it happened, that it was Arwind they wanted.”

Austria bared San Miguel initiated the trade after he learned that the Batang Pier obtained Manuel following a five-player deal with the Phoenix Fuel Masters.

The three-time PBA Coach of the Year said he kept tabs on Manuel, saying the bruising forward has always been a “problem” for the Beermen.

“We talked to NorthPort if we can trade for Vic Manuel. They said it was okay as long as it is beneficial to both teams. I consulted my coaching staff, we talked about it, and then we’re okay with it.

“It happened that they wanted Arwind. He could give [them] some leadership and experience because Arwind is a multiple champion.”

Heavy heart

Austria admitted trading Santos was a heartbreaking decision.

Santos, after all, played a huge role in all of the eight PBA titles Austria won with San Miguel as he earned a reputation for making clutch buckets, even winning Finals MVP honors.

“It was a decision that was hard for me. I thank him because my career prospered and he was very instrumental in our championships. He hit crucial baskets for us to win the championship,” Austria said.

“This is the reality of life. We have to move on because not all good things will last forever.”

A PBA title has remained elusive for the Beermen since the coronavirus pandemic struck.

San Miguel crashed out of the quarterfinals in the 2020 Philippine Cup and fell short of a finals berth in the 2021 Philippine Cup after succumbing to eventual champion TNT.

In contrast, the Beermen won eight of the last 15 championships prior to the pandemic.

But as change proved to be inevitable, Austria said age did not factor in the trade that saw San Miguel get younger with the acquisition of the 34-year-old Manuel and the exit of the 40-year-old Santos.

Despite being the oldest in the team, Santos still produced 12.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in more than 34 minutes per game – the highest among all Beermen players, just behind Chris Ross.

“If you look at their performance, you cannot see that age is a factor to them,” Austria said.

Potential return

Austria did not rule out the possibility of Santos returning to San Miguel.

In the past, other Beermen players still found their way back to the franchise after being traded away.

Alex Cabagnot came back to San Miguel following a short stint at GlobalPort, while Ronald Tubid returned to the team a year after being shipped to Columbian.

“He accepted it but his heart is with San Miguel. If ever, he wants to retire with San Miguel,” Austria said. “San Miguel will give that to him, if he wants to retire as a San Miguel player.”

“We can never know what will happen.” –

Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.