By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter

ONE of the best point guards to parade his wares in the local basketball scene, Jimmy Alapag is now making a name for himself in coaching, a transition he said was somehow “natural” after all those years he spent as a floor general.

Recently graced Tiebreaker Vods’ Coaches Unfiltered podcast, Mr. Alapag, 42, currently the head coach of San Miguel Alab Pilipinas in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL), said his years manning the point guard position in the Philippine Basketball Association and the national team set the path for the direction he is now taking.

“I think for point guards, it might be a little more natural just because when you’re playing the position as a player, you’re really an extension of the coach,” said Mr. Alapag, who played 13 years in the PBA for the Talk ‘N Text and Meralco franchises.

“It is still much different when you’re coaching [though] because now, not only you’re concerned about your team but you’re also worried about your opponent and what they’re playing, their tendencies, I think that’s the biggest challenge now as a coach,” he added.

“Mighty Mouse” went on to say that he feels fortunate that he was given the opportunity to establish a footing in coaching immediately after his playing career was over.

Following a one-year stint with Meralco before retiring for good, he was asked to come onboard the Bolts as an assistant coach to help players’ development, particularly then-young players Baser Amer and Chris Newsome.

Mr. Alapag said that assistant coaching post did a lot in further forming in him the desire to coach as a way of “paying it forward.”

After Meralco, he became the coach of Alab Pilipinas and then concurrently became an assistant coach with the San Miguel Beermen in the PBA.

The former PBA most valuable player (2011) has also shared his services for the Philippine national men’s basketball team as an assistant, the most recent in the 30th Southeast Asian Games last year.

Mr. Alapag admitted early on many doubted his move to be a coach which somehow rocked him. But his determination to work and do well in coaching, along with the help of the people surrounding him, kept him going.

“With Alab, we had not just great players but great people and I think that’s very important in having success with the team… It was really a collective effort but at the start, man it was pretty tough,” he said.

Also keeping him going, he said, is the many lessons he got from the coaches he played for throughout the years.

“As a coach, you’re always trying to grow and you’re always trying to improve. You’re always trying to learn and for me, I always go back to when I was playing and the coaches I played for, guys like Coach Norman (Black), Coach Chot (Reyes), Coach Jamike (Jarin) who’s someone who is very helpful to me during my career. Taking bits of pieces of what I learned from them and through my experiences of them, trying to cultivate my own style as well,” he said.

Right now because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, play in the ABL is suspended with its future still uncertain. It is something Mr. Alapag said is very unfortunate and tough.

“It’s tough right now. Obviously everyone has been affected by the pandemic. With the ABL, we’re in a very, very tough situation, honestly, I think even tougher than the PBA just because in the PBA, you’re still here Metro Manila, and obviously there’s still a ton of challenges for the league and variables to cover to keep everyone safety as the top priority,” he said.

“With the ABL, it’s a much different dynamic because of the heavy travel that we have around the region to all the other neighboring Southeast Asian countries. Last that I heard, the league is still on indefinite suspension. Us having been five months into the season and then just like instantly, the season was cut off. It was tough but it’s something that we’ve all been affected by,” he added.

Steadily carving his name in coaching, Mr. Alapag said he cannot wait to resume his journey, armed with added determination to succeed and better appreciation for the game that has given him a lot.