By Ivan Stewart Saldajeno

PROMOTED. Jorge Gallent has been appointed head coach of San Miguel Beer in the Philippine Basketball Association, team management announced on Saturday (Jan. 21, 2023). Gallent will take over Leo Austria who has decided to take a break from coaching. (Courtesy of PBA Images)

MANILA – Jorge Gallent has been named the new head coach of San Miguel Beer in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

Team manager Gee Abanilla confirmed on Saturday that Gallent has replaced Austria as the team’s chief tactician ahead of the PBA Governors’ Cup, which starts Sunday.

Gallent previously coached Magnolia, then known as Derby Ace, for the 2010-11 season, leading the team to the semifinals in two conferences.

He was tapped as acting head coach for the Beermen in the latter part of the 2023 Commissioner’s Cup eliminations when Austria was placed under the PBA’s health and safety protocols.

After the Beermen scored huge wins, they decided to keep Gallent a little longer.

Gallent would steer SMB to six straight wins in total including a quarterfinal sweep of Converge, but the streak was snapped in Game 1 of the semifinals when guest team Bay Area won on a last-second game-winner by Kobey Lam.

Austria was reactivated for Game 2 and eventually won Game 3, but the Dragons still eliminated the Beermen in four games.

Upon seeing how SMB overachieved in Gallent’s short span as the acting coach, the team decided to hand the head coaching reins to him for the season-ending conference.

“Coach Jorge will take over, bringing with him PBA head coaching experience and an exciting future for the franchise,” Abanilla said.

According to Abanilla, Austria wants to take a break from coaching.

“Coach Leo met with management a few days ago and informed us that he wishes to take a coaching sabbatical for personal reasons starting the Governors’ Cup,” Abanilla said, but added that Austria will still have a role in the coaching staff as consultant.

San Miguel begins its campaign on Jan. 29 against Phoenix at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

June Mar Fajardo and CJ Perez will also be on loan to the Gilas Pilipinas national team for the sixth window of the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers on Feb. 24 and 27 at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue town, Bulacan province.

“To the SMB supporters, rest assured that we will continue to work together and strive for a successful campaign in the Governors’ Cup onwards,” read Abanilla’s statement. (PNA)