MANILA, Philippines -- There were no hard feelings between Arwind Santos and San Miguel head coach Leo Austria, even after the controversial trade that sent the veteran player to the NorthPort Batang Pier.
Santos played for San Miguel for a dozen years, winning nine championships -- eight of them with Austria as the head coach. That run came to an end in early November, when Santos was traded to NorthPort in exchange for Vic Manuel.
On Sunday, Santos played against the Beermen for the first time, and very nearly led the Batang Pier to victory against his former team. He put up 23 points, 11 rebounds, and two steals in leading NorthPort back from a huge deficit, but the Beermen held on for a 91-88 triumph, their first of the PBA Governors' Cup.
"It's fun," Austria said of their first meeting against Santos and the Batang Pier. "Wala namang nawala sa relationship namin (ni Arwind)."
Austria revealed that he ran into Santos in the holding area outside of the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City, where all personnel have to undergo an antigen test before they can enter the venue.
"Tinuro ni Arwind, 'Coach, ang nangyari lang eh iba na ang uniform ko ngayon,'" Austria said. "We'll still be friends."
When Santos was traded to NorthPort, Austria said the former Most Valuable Player will make a difference for the Batang Pier -- a team that had already given San Miguel a challenge in the All-Filipino Cup.
"He can give and share his experience. Dahil ang daming experience ni Arwind, and he could help, he could be a good leader to the team," Austria said.
Santos was quick to prove his former coach right: the 40-year-old forward is averaging 22.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.7 steals, and 1.7 blocks per game in his first three games for the Batang Pier.
Seeing Santos shine for his new team delighted Austria, even though they very nearly fell victim to NorthPort on Sunday.
"I'm happy for him dahil it seems na nage-enjoy siya sa game niya dito sa NorthPort, and sabi ko nga before, talagang nagbe-benefit sa kanya 'yung NorthPort as of now," said Austria.
Santos' exploits have yet to result in a victory for the Batang Pier, however. They fell to 0-3 with their loss to San Miguel, where they played with an all-Filipino crew after import Cameron Forte sustained an injury.
NorthPort will gun for a first win on Friday against Barangay Ginebra. San Miguel, meanwhile, plays the Blackwater Bossing on Saturday.