Photo from PBA

Alaska coach Jeffrey Cariaso urged his team to try and leave a lasting impression before closing the chapter on its long PBA tenure after this season’s Governors’ Cup.

Cariaso said there’s no reason why the Aces can’t swing for the fences despite the uncertain future following owner Wilfred Uytengsu’s announcement that the franchise’s 35th season will be its last.

Odds of winning a 15th championship are stacked against Alaska, which hasn’t won since the 2013 Commissioner’s Cup and with San Miguel Corporation and MVP Group still being considered favorites to win this conference.

“Part of my talk yesterday was just really talking to them about us staying in the moment and us still having this opportunity to win our 15th championship. Why can’t we go out with a bang? Why can’t we go out and just try to strive for this last one before we go? Why not?” Cariaso said after Alaska’s 80-74 win over Rain or Shine Thursday, Feb. 17 to officially kick off its farewell tour.

“Of course it’s not gonna be easy, there’s 11 other teams striving for that same goal. So we understand that, we understand the hard work that’s ahead of us. But again, it’s our last chance together, why not go out and do it? And if anything, it will make everyone look good,” he added.

Cariaso admitted being told in advance of the news that still brought shock among fans and those within the local basketball scene.

But the formal announcement Wednesday morning was something he and the team will perhaps remember for a long time.

“Yesterday was a day we’ll never forget. Because it was formally announced,” he said. “I honestly did know a couple of days before that, and I was the only one on our team who knew. That allowed me to help prepare what I wanted to talk to the team about to stay motivated.

“So yes, we did not know pretty much until yesterday so all the preparation we’ve been doing from last year, from trades, from pickups, all are in the thought of how are we gonna be better not just for this conference but for the future. We were looking forward to the two first round picks in the draft that we have this year.

“Everything we did prior to Feb. 16 was really assuming that we would maintain and keep the team and try to strengthen what we have in the coming year. Yes, it’s gonna be a process mentally but I think the guys are up for it.”

Cariaso also took some time to reflect on the impending demise of the team that drafted him in 1995, allowing him to become part of the Grand Slam feat the following year and return for the final years of his playing career and becoming its head coach.

“I hate talking about myself but what I thought about the last couple of days was just this awesome opportunity to coach the team that drafted me,” he said. “Altogether, this is my 15th year with Alaska — as a player and as a coach. So how special is it that I have this chance and opportunity to coach the team that drafted me, that I played for, that I put my heart and soul in as a player.

“So I’m trying to do the same now as a coach. So I’ve thought about that, knowing that the end is within the next couple of months.”

He immediately pushed back on his sentimental side, stressing the need to put the Aces’ final journey to bed on a high note.

Cariaso will eventually take time to fully reminisce and probably shed a tear when the time comes that the Alaska Aces are no more. For now, however, it’s business as usual for him and the Aces.

“I try to reel my thoughts in, I try not to go overboard with regards to that,” he said. “We have games ahead of us so our focus is really to just prepare and prepare for our next game.”

Source: Manila Bulletin (