Two sides of the coin in Wilkerson episode
Two sides of the coin in Wilkerson episode
Wilkerson, who would have been a shoo-in to win Best Import honors if the Beermen were to at least make the championship series, walked out of the team dugout on Tuesday night after a 98-96 Game 2 loss that put San Miguel in a 0-2 hole.
On the way out, the braided-haired former Marshall University standout was heard yelling: “Take me back to America,” apparently, after having a run-in with coach Leo Austria and members of management after the heart-breaking loss.
There are two sides of the coin here, from where this corner looks at it.
The first is that San Miguel management did what is absolutely right and discarded Wilkerson, never mind if he could be the key for the Beermen to come back from this deficit and go all the way to keep its Grand Slam bid alive.
No player is bigger than management, or the team that employs him. And no player, no matter how good he is, can just inflict disharmony in the team because he wants to throw a fit.
Wilkerson will go down in the annals of the league as one of the finest imports in modern time. He could do it all — score, rebound, pass and defend. The problem is, if you’re not a team player, then there’s no use having him here.
What the PBA needs are imports who respect the game more than anything else, because if a person has that, he’ll have no problems working with the team and everyone around it.
The second side is San Miguel lost a true fighter in the man.
Wilkerson is obviously so enamored with winning that he — according to team insiders — wound up in a shouting match with coach Leo Austria inside the dugout after the defeat because Austria, reportedly, singled him out as to why the Beermen lost Game 2.
The import wants to win so bad that he risked being banned from the league by confronting Austria and, later on also according to reports, several members of San Miguel’s management team.
If true, the problem here is that the issue wasn’t handled well to begin with.
Austria could have thought deep in his heart the Wilkerson caused the defeat, but he could have gone on to have a different approach and talked to his import in a different way.
Everyone has tantrums, everyone has problems, but if one manages to massage egos the right way, things can be sorted out.
It is not alien for Austria to single out players every time he loses. In a 98-94 Game 1 loss, Austria went public and said that Marcio Lassiter was the missing link and “took too many bad shots.”
What if Lassiter tries to throw in fits himself, especially after another forgettable Game 2 that had his three-pointer for the win being ruled as having come after the buzzer?
Great coaches can take ballooning egos and make them work as one without disrupting team chemistry.
We’ve all heard of head cases in the past, most notable among them being the great Billy Ray Bates of Crispa, which he helped to a second Grand Slam in 1983 under Tommy Manotoc.
Bates had run-ins with everyone in the team — even with the law — during that glorious year for the Redmanizers, but no one saw it spill to the floor with Bates and the team all business when game time came.
But win or lose, Manotoc and management never talked about Bates being this and being that. Manotoc played Bates well and maximized his talent to the fullest and made Crispa practically unbeatable that year.
In short, Manotoc handled Bates’ ego well and this saved the team from imploding, for after all, Manotoc had more than a handful of stars at Crispa who wouldn’t take crap from anyone, most especially an import.
Should San Miguel go and lose this series to the Painters, the Beermen would have imparted the best message it could get out of it all.
But San Miguel should also look at how it handles things internally, because people who know their basketball will not believe it when Austria says that it is Wilkerson who lost Game 2.
San Miguel was down practically the entire night, and if Wilkerson was indeed insubordinate as what reports are saying, then Austria could have benched him and not let him play for almost 47 minutes.
Austria has a lineup so star-studded that it can withstand any import in the league. Sure, San Miguel could still have lost that game, but if Austria had handled it well and put Wilkerson in his proper place because “he wasn’t following game plan,” then all of this wouldn’t have happened.
It certainly would have made Wilkerson think things through.