The Inaugural Baller Awards: The Best PBA Coach & Import of 2013

In lieu of a PBA year-ender, I felt it would be better to go position-by-position and look at the best PBAers of 2013. These are the guys who did really well in the pro circuit. Perhaps they led their teams to conference titles. Perhaps they led the league in a certain statistical category. Perhaps they were part of Gilas Pilipinas and helped the team make history. Perhaps they did all of those things.

In this post, we will give Baller Awards to the Best PBA Head Coach and Best PBA Import of 2013.

Guess who did NOT make it as our Best Import of 2013.
(screencap from the PBA)

The Coach Nominees:

Norman Black – Talk N Text and Gilas Pilipinas (assistant coach)
After earning his fifth straight UAAP title for the Ateneo Blue Eagles in 2012, coach Norman Black wasted no time getting back on the sidelines, this time calling the shots for the Talk N Text Tropang Texters in the PBA. He helmed TNT in its championship-clinching Philippine Cup campaign last season, which was historic because it was the third Philippine Cup in a row for them. He was also part of the brain trust of Gilas Pilipinas, helping coach Chot Reyes by scouting the opposition.

Yeng Guiao – Rain or Shine
Guiao didn’t win any titles this past season and his Painters failed to defend their Govs’ Cup crown, but the fiery bench tactician still had a good year. He steered Rain or Shine to its first Philippine Cup Finals appearance and still kept them competitive despite having a few guys do double-duty because of national team commitments (Beau Belga, Jeff Chan, and Gabe Norwood). That alone means coach Yeng should be on this list.

Luigi Trillo – Alaska
The young coach really stepped out of coach Tim Cone’s shadow this past season, highlighted, of course, by Alaska’s championship sweep in the 2013 Commish Cup. He was able to reign in his… interesting rookie sensation (Calvin Abueva), maximize his young backcourt (JV Casio and RJ Jazul), squeeze out more from his veterans (Sonny Thoss and Cyrus Baguio), and unleash his superb import (Rob Dozier). Result? First post-Cone title for the francise. And now? Coach Trillo has everyone’s attention.

Gee Abanilla – Petron Blaze
Here’s what makes Abanilla’s performance last season quite impressive: he was “moved” from the De La Salle Green Archers to the Petron Blaze Boosters quite abruptly. He had to acclimatize himself to heading a PBA team, to balancing pro egos, and helping develop the current most impressive center in the league. His Petron squad eventually advanced to the Govs’ Cup Finals as the favorite, but squandered 1 2-1 lead and lost in 7 games. Currently, his team has won 7 of 9 games and is second in the standings. Not too shabby.

Tim Cone – San Mig Coffee
It seemed ironic that Alaska won its first title post-Cone this past season and then coach Cone actually wins his own title with his new team in the very next conference. In a way, both camps won. The third conference crown was extra sweet for coach Tim, whose Mixers lost in the 2012 Govs’ Cup to the Elasto-Painters. Coach Cone steered his squad into overhauling a 1-2 series deficit and, consequently, he annexed his second crown after leaving Alaska (15th overall PBA title to boot!).

And the BALLER goes to…

I like the stories of both Luigi Trillo and Tim Cone – the former taking over from the latter and winning a title and then the latter winning his own title afterwards. Yes, it is a little confusing, but it also really happened. Norman Black, however, has an even better story. He leaves a legendary coaching career in the collegiate ranks, he wins again at the pro level by copping the most prestigious PBA conference title, and then plays a major role in Gilas Pilipinas’s awesome drive to the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

Norman Black is the Best PBA Coach of 2013.
(image by Pranz Kaeno Billones/AKTV)

The Import Nominees:

Rob Dozier - Alaska
The 6’9 French-American was more then solid for the Alaska Aces. He was EXACTLY what they needed. He was the plug that completed a team with a burly 6’7 PF masquerading at center (read: Sonny Thoss), a bunch of lights out shooters, and a wild child bound to win ROY. Dozier didn’t have the prettiest footwork or the maddest hops, but, man, he delivered the goods when it mattered most. His final numbers in the 2013 Commish Cup: 20.1ppg, 17.6rpg, 2.9bpg, and 2.5apg, while shooting 53.1% from the field. He recorded a 52.48 player efficiency (EFF) rating. Alaska’s record with Dozier was 18 wins and 4 losses.

Vernon Macklin - Ginebra
Macklin replaced Herbet Hill, who led the Gin Kings to an atrocious start to the tournament – 0 wins and 3 losses. Macklin proved to be a great low post operator who could sky for the alley-oop jam. With Macklin in tow, Ginebra won 12 of 21 games, including huge wins over second-seeded Rain or Shine and the Tropang Texters in the conference knockout rounds. Whereas Dozier was a guy who scored off of offensive rebounds or drop passes, Macklin was a classic, almost circa 90s, low block slotman. He averaged 22.1ppg, 14.6rpg, and 2.9apg, while also shooting 54.8% from the floor. His EFF was 49.04.

Renaldo Balkman – Petron Blaze
Because, you know, he’s best friends with Arwind Santos.

Marqus Blakely – San Mig Coffee
The 2013 Govs’ Cup might have been short and sweet, but returning import Marqus Blakely sure made his presence felt, leading the Mixers to the second seed and back into the conference Finals. They squared off against the heavily-favored Petron Blaze Boosters, who, prior to the Finals series, had won 12 of 14 games. Blakely, however, was a man on a mission. Despite falling behind, 1-2, early in the series, the Mixers, behind Blakely’s unending motor, were able to rally and win in seven games. He averaged 24.0ppg, 15.2rpg, 4.6apg, 2.2bpg, and 2.1spg, while shooting 49.9% from the field. His EFF was 53.49.

Elijah Millsap – Petron Blaze
Prior to the Govs’ Cup, Elijah was mostly known as the brother of NBAer Paul Millsap, but he made an indelible mark in the third conference after leading the Boosters to an 8-1 record in the eliminations and eventually into the conference Finals. Unlike most of the other PBA imports, Millsap was mainly a guard, and this made an already very deep Petron squad even more dangerous. Millsap connected on more than two treys per game, registering averages of 28.6ppg, 11.4rpg, 4.9apg, and 2.1bpg. His EFF was 52.24.

And the BALLER goes to…

Kidding. Don’t shoot me. Or choke me. Haha, yeah.

Blakely had the “revenge” angle going, but Dozier helped Alaska become maybe the breakthrough team of the entire league. Dozier was also not the prototypical PBA import who dominated a game with slick moves and strong jams. He was really a yeoman who just really filled the hole Alaska had in its roster. After the second conference, some people even toyed with the idea of maybe naturalizing Dozier for future FIBA tournaments. I, for one, would not mind.

Rob Dozier gets our nod as the year's Best PBA Import.
(image by Paolo Papa/Sports 5)

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