The San Miguel Beermen accomplished something that has never been done in the PBA by winning four-straight Philippine Cup titles. The starting unit is one of the best the country has ever seen. Headlined by four-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo with former MVP Arwind Santos, Finals MVPs Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross, and arguably the league's best shooting guard in Marcio Lassiter, this edition of the Beermen may be one of, if not the best team, ever assembled.
ESPN5 asked some coaches of former Philippine Cup champions to compare the rosters they fielded to coach Leo Austria's personnel, and possible tactics they would use to defeat the Beermen.
For this edition, we talked to Derrick Pumaren who was the head coach of the 1995 Sunkist Orange Juicers.
A team that is often forgotten, Sunkist fell just short of getting a PBA Grand Slam in 1995. After winning the Philippine and Commissioner's Cups, they were the top team after the elimination round in the Governors' Cup. However, they stumbled with a 3-5 record in the round-robin semifinals that locked them out of the top two.
They featured a starting unit composed of Bonel Balingit, Nelson Asaytono, Vergel Meneses, Rudy Distrito, and Boybits Victoria.
Asaytono and Meneses are two of the most talented scorers that the league has even seen. Together they formed a fearsome tandem that was tough to guard. Asaytono was one of the top players in the league before the arrival of Meneses. However, Asaytono still managed to make it to the Second Mythical Team even after sharing the offensive load with the equally-talented Meneses who won the PBA's Most Valuable Player award in 1995.
Bonel Balingit vs. June Mar Fajardo
"Height-wise, we'll be able to match up but the skills of Fajardo are superior compared to Bonel's. However, Bonel has a wide body to hold him down. He's 6-8, 6-9 and can bang with Fajardo. Fajardo would have the advantage but it won't be easy to score.
"Bonel isn't as mobile as Fajardo so we'll still have to double-team him but at least we have a big man who can bang bodies against him."
Nelson Asaytono vs. Arwind Santos
"Nelson is stronger than Arwind but we know Arwind can play defense inside and outside. Probably, we'll try to wear out Arwind with the strength of Nelson. He's one guy who can shoot outside, post-up and grab offensive rebounds. We'll have a bit of the problem because Arwind likes stepping out for the three-point shot.
"By the end of the fourth quarter I think Nelson will make Arwind tired or in foul trouble already just because of his brute strength.
"Alvin (Patrimonio) was the top power forward during that time, but Nelson was a clear second on that list. His career blossomed in SMB under Ron Jacobs because that was his team, he didn't have to share with Vergel anymore and he almost won an MVP."
Vergel Meneses vs. Marcio Lassiter
"I don't think Lassiter will be able to stop him. Vergel in an inside/outside guy. He can post up, he can drive. We have a big advantage when it comes to that matchup and we'll force coach Leo Austria to take out Lassiter from the game and maybe play Arwind at the three.
"In that aspect, we will have an advantage. We'll be able to force them to match up with us."
Rudy Distrito vs. Chris Ross
"Rudy can guard either Ross or Cabagnot, it depends on what's happening in the game. Rudy and Ross are both very good defensive players."
Boybits Victoria vs. Alex Cabagnot
"Boybits is a very smart point guard, so is Cabagnot. Boybits knew what his role was with Sunkist. We had Nelson and Vergel averaging about 20 points per game so as a point guard he knew his role was to distribute."
"The Sunkist team was able to play as one and they were able to communicate really well. That's why we almost won the Grand Slam. We were very deep in all positions and if one guy wasn't there or one was not playing well, we have players who can step up.
"We had a good mixture of role players and superstars. We had a really good combination. We had a lot of height, except for June Mar, and our bench firepower is superior compared to theirs because we had a deeper bench.
"We had great players of the bench like Al Solis, Eric Reyes who was our stopper, Yoyoy Villamin, Kenneth Duremdes, Ric-ric Marata, and Zaldy Realubit so I think we would have given SMB a good fight. With what they've accomplished, they should be considered one of the best all-Filipino teams ever but I think we'll have a chance against them."