Sandy Pramuji & Wimbo Satwiko
After a roller-coaster ride in his debut season, Indonesia Warriors coach John Todd Purves wants to make history.
Purves, an American, took over from Ocky Tamtelahitu at the beginning of the season and has vowed to lead the Warriors to their first Asean Basketball League title.
The Philippine Patriots won the regional league in 2010, the ABL’s first season, while the Thailand Slammers took the trophy last year.
But before they can lift the trophy, the Warriors will first have to overcome the Patriots in the best-of-three semifinals, with the first game at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City, in Metro Manila, on Sunday.
Despite losing two of three games to the Patriots during the regular season, the Warriors will go to Manila on a high after posting an emphatic 104-79 win in their last game, on April 21. It was the first time that an Indonesian team had beaten the Philippines on their home turf.
“It’s now time for Indonesia to win against a Philippine team. We are very excited [about the playoffs],” Purves said on Tuesday. “Although by record we’re the underdog, we have a degree of confidence moving forward. We’re going to compete at a pretty high level in the Philippines.”
It’s been an up-and-down season for Purves, a former assistant coach with the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.
The Warriors were 4-7 in the first half of the season, which had fans and pundits doubting their chances of qualifying for the playoffs.
Purves answered the critics by overhauling the squad. He released three Filipino players and brought in Filipino-American Stanley Pringle and Filipinos Joseph Allan Salangsang and Jerrick Uy Canada. American forwards Evan Brock and Steven Thomas were brought in to replace Larry Jonathan Smith and Reggie Warren.
The moves paid off as the Warriors started the second half of the season with three straight wins. They then dropped two in a row — to the San Miguel Beermen of the Philippines and the Saigon Heat of Vietnam — before clinching a spot in the playoffs with five straight wins, finishing the regular season in third place with a 12-9 record.
“This is my first year overseas and I was learning as we were going, in a hard way to some degree,” Purves said. “So I understood that we needed to make personnel changes and we did that and we were able to get lot better.”
The Beermen will play the Westport Malaysia Dragons on Saturday in the other semifinal.