Jimmy Alapag joining the huddle of the San Miguel Beermen as the newest member of their coaching staff is a picture that was impossible to imagine a few years ago.
It is something that many should have seen coming since Alapag coaches San Miguel Alab Pilipinas in the ASEAN Basketball League where he works closely with San Miguel Corporation (SMC) Sports Director Alfrancis Chua. Still, it caught the basketball community by surprise when it finally happened.
There have been whispers of this big move right after Alapag won last season's ABL title with Alab alongside Justin Brownlee and Renaldo Balkman, two SMC imports. Initially, there were rumors that he would be joining Barangay Ginebra as it was LA Tenorio who acted as the bridge between Alapag and Chua when Tanduay's sponsorship with Alab broke down. However, the decision makers eventually picked SMB as his destination in the PBA. He had multiple chances to join the squad last season but Alapag preferred an off-season entry so as to not alter the chemistry of the Beermen while competing.
Alapag will help assist head coach Leo Austria alongside Peter Martin, Jorge Gallent, Dayong Mendoza, Biboy Ravanes, Boyzie Zamar, and fellow former PBA Most Valuable Player Ato Agustin.
The Beermen are the winningest team in the PBA and they've dominated in the past few years, winning six of the 12 conferences in the past four seasons.
The Beermen have rolled the dice by adding big pieces to their squad in Alapag and superstar point guard Terrence Romeo.
What does Alapag bring to an already loaded San Miguel squad? Here are a few things.
Alapag reinforces the value of keeping everyone in line
When he was still playing for TNT, Alapag helped the team win multiple championships. From 2011 to 2013, Alapag and TNT won four of the nine conferences, including a three-peat in the Philippine Cup.
Back then they looked like a well-oiled team as every member of the team had a defined role. Every time that the squad neared its breaking point, their bond and camaraderie pulled them back together.
San Miguel Beer is a team that has also displayed these qualities. With June Mar Fajardo in the middle and with veterans surrounding him, it's clear that the Beermen also have the structure to continue being successful and adding someone like Alapag reinforces that.
Adding another winner never hurts
Alapag is a proven winner both in the PBA and in international basketball. Having his experience on the bench will surely help bring out the best from all members of the team. Alapag has battled through adversity and showed that his lack of height isn't an impediment to being one of the best point guards in league history.
Although there are other former PBA players on the coaching staff, the success of Alapag is fresher in the minds of the players. Anything that he says automatically has value.
An extra shooting coach
Immediately after joining the Beermen, Alapag was already seen rebounding and passing for the likes of Arwind Santos and the other Beermen who wanted to work on their 3-point shooting. He won't be there to change the shooting form of veterans but he'll be key in adding to their weapons. He'll help them figure out ways to keep the defense guessing, how to make it appear that they are looking to drive when they're really gunning for a jumper.
All of the things that Alapag learned through trial and error in his 13-year experience in the PBA will now be available for download to any of the Beermen, especially the younger players.
A bridge for Romeo
Another value-added service from Alapag is that he can be key to helping Romeo acclimate to his new team. Alapag and Romeo worked together back in 2015 when Romeo was first included in the Gilas Pilipinas program. The young Romeo quickly became the talk of the town as he exploded onto the scene in the Jones Cup and the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in China.
Romeo listens to Alapag because he has the utmost respect for the legend. This is very important as Romeo starts his stint with the Beermen because the coach will help him figure out that what's best for the player might not be what's best for the team and that the latter always takes precedence.
Better Beer than elsewhere
Alapag is a rare commodity in the PBA. He's a multiple-time champion player who has won an array of individual awards, a former team manager, a champion head coach, and a member of the FIBA Players Commission. Alapag also gives SMB an added marketing weapon.
He has deep knowledge of the comings and goings in the PBA as he has seen it all as a player and even some of it from the bench. Adding that level of intelligence and experience is really a no-brainer. Any team that could get a guy like Alapag should.
Another thing that makes him unique is that he commands the same level of respect from Filipino-foreigners and locals. He can effectively communicate to both groups, which should be very helpful for the Beermen as they try to get more championships under their belt while also building for their future.