Adversity tests the character of a family.
For the better part of the last five years, San Miguel has proven to be one of the most resilient teams in addressing tough situations, further forging their bond through challenges both on and off-the-court.
On Tuesday, the Beermen’s mettle was once again tested.
With San Miguel starting its quest for a rare four-peat in the all-Filipino conference with a tough draw against TNT in the quarterfinals, coach Leo Austria had his attention divided as wife Nanette had just undergone a kidney transplant at Cardinal Santos Medical Center.
Lacking in sleep, the three-time Coach of the Year tried to fight through the emotions, holding strong for his team before eventually breaking down in the press room and once again in the dugout after the squad pulled off the 106-93 win to advance to the semifinals.
“We really wanted to just play for him and his family,” shared Chris Ross.
“We know that he had a heavy heart and he hasn’t been getting much sleep. He’s been with us at practice every day, hasn’t complained about it, hasn’t brought it up, and hasn’t mentioned it. That’s just a testament to the type of professional that he is. He’s really a hard worker, and he really puts a lot of time into preparing us for what we have to do.
Ross said San Miguel tried its best to make Austria feel a little bit better. “We kind of just gave him a big hug and let him know that we’re there for him.”
Arwind Santos also knows how tough Austria’s situation is.
After all, he had to go through the same ordeal back in 2015 when his mom Araceli was rushed out of the venue due to profuse bleeding on the nose during one of San Miguel’s game, coincidentally, against TNT.
“Even I went through that, too,” said the 36-year-old forward in Filipino. “We knew we just had to be strong. We can’t control what happens in the world and what happens to us. If those things happen, we can’t do anything but to pray and focus on what we need to do. We have to fight through the emotions so that we can still play despite our situation. We used her as our inspiration.”
The Beermen came together and pulled one off for their coach and his family, dedicating the triumph as they progressed to the 2018 PBA Philippine Cup semifinals.
Austria, too, can heave a sigh of relief as his wife’s operation was a success.
“That was for coach Leo and (his son) Bacon. We really wanted to go out there and play hard and try to get that win for the Austria family,” said Ross. “Luckily, we’re able to go out there and play hard and get the win for him. Going forward, we’ll be playing for him and his family as well.”
“At least, we were able to give coach a little bit of a relief, lift him up, and get us closer to our goal,” said Santos. “I believe we’ll be harder to beat because of that.”