Todd Purves, recently named the AirAsia Asean Basketball League (ABL) Coach of the Year, was a video coordinator and advance scout for the NBA team Sacramento Kings before signing up with the Indonesia Warriors this season.
Fil-Am coach Erik Spoelstra also moved from the video room to the Miami Heat bench in an inspiring journey that took him all the way to the top of the NBA. Purves is a whiff away from following in Spoelstra’s footsteps and he’ll duplicate the championship feat with a Warriors win over San Miguel Beer in the series-clinching Game 3 of the ABL Finals at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig tomorrow.
Purves joined the Kings as a video intern in 2006-07. He was previously assistant coach at Monterey Peninsula Community College and California State at Northridge and worked as director of basketball operations at Sacramento State in 2001-05. With the Kings, Purves supervised the recording and editing of all the team’s games, upcoming opponents and hundreds of collegiate and European games. According to the Kings’ media guide book, Purves’ recordings were used by the Sacramento coaching and front office staffs for game plan development and draft preparation. He worked six years with the Kings.
Opposing Purves in the ABL Finals is San Miguel’s Bobby Parks whose hoop resume is impressive. Parks was the Atlanta Hawks’ third round pick in the 1984 NBA draft and became a hoop legend in the Philippines as a seven-time Best Import awardee. Even before retiring as an active player, Parks got involved in coaching but never on a major stage until this season when he got the San Miguel job in the ABL and joined the Petron PBA staff. Because he knows the game like the back of his hand, Parks coaches almost instinctively. He’s what everyone calls a player’s coach. Parks has a sixth sense in anticipating the adjustments to make and calls the shots like he’s on the floor as the court general.
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Aside from Parks and Purves, the other ABL coaches this campaign were Bangkok’s Joe (Jellybean) Bryant (Kobe’s father), Thailand’s Raha Mortel, Singapore’s Neo Beng Siang, Saigon’s Jason Rabedeaux (former assistant coach at Oklahoma and Memphis, former coach at University of Texas-El Paso, former director of basketball operations at Marquette and former coach in China and Japan) and Malaysia’s Ariel Vanguardia.
Bryant’s involvement gave the ABL instant recognition and led to a seven-page story in Sports Illustrated (May 14, 2012). The feature mentioned Bryant’s Asean imports Marvin Cruz and Jai Reyes, both PBA veterans. Although the article was more about Bryant than the ABL, the league got an unexpected boost in publicity.
Tomorrow, it will come down to just one game for all the ABL marbles and both coaches are expected to be at their craftiest in trying to outwit each other. The teams are evenly matched although San Miguel has beaten Indonesia in four of five encounters dating back to the regular season. They’ve both won eight of their last 10 contests.
Indonesia’s last two losses were close. The Warriors dropped an 88-86 decision to Saigon last April 4 and lost to San Miguel, 86-83, in Game 1 of the Finals. In contrast, San Miguel’s last two setbacks were blowouts. The Beermen’s eight-game win streak came to an end when Malaysia won, 100-77, in Game 2 of the semifinals. And in Game 2 of the Finals, San Miguel bowed to Indonesia, 81-61. San Miguel bounced back from the 23-point defeat to Malaysia by crushing the Dragons, 90-56, in the series decider. Will the Beermen rebound to deal Indonesia a similar drubbing?
“They match up very well with us,” said San Miguel sports director Noli Eala. “We’ve beaten them in four of five games but they’re a new team now with Arki Wisnu and Christian Stipetu coming aboard fresh from the Indonesian pro league. They’ve got quick guards, good outside shooters and bench depth. A lot will depend on how our imports (Nick Fazekas and Duke Crews) play. We worked for the homecourt advantage all season long and now, we can win the championship by defending our floor. We’re confident. We know what to do to win.”
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In the ABL, teams are allowed to recruit two foreign imports and up to three Asean imports. Fazekas, a seven-foot center with a deadly outside jumper, played seven games for Petron in the PBA before jumping to the ABL. Crews also saw action in the PBA with Rain Or Shine then joined San Miguel to replace Dalron Johnson. The Warriors are bannered by former PBA import Steve Thomas and Evan Brock. Thomas is a terror off the boards while Brock, who never averaged in double figure points in four years at Alabama, has blossomed into an explosive scorer.
The game will be televised live on ESPN with a three-man panel composed of anchor Sean Farquar, former Indonesia coach Bong Ramos and former PBA star Vince Hizon. For sure, the ABL will crown a first-time champion in its third year of existence after the Philippine Patriots won in 2010 and Thailand last year. League parity is a big reason why the ABL has become a popular weekend treat in the region.
San Miguel has an opportunity to close out the series at home but in a winner-take-all confrontation, it’s often a 50-50 proposition. Defense will win it for the Beermen in the way they limited Indonesia to an average of only 69 points in their three regular season faceoffs. The Warriors will lean on offense and rebounding to get the edge. It’s a game for the ages.