The Meralco Bolts underwent a massive change in their coaching staff that saw Luigi Trillo becoming the head coach as Norman Black was given the new role of team consultant after steering the Meralco Bolts to four PBA Finals appearances during his almost a decade tenure with the team.
PBA News Meralco Shuffle Coaching Staff; Black as Consultant
Serbian coach Nenad Vucinic, who coached the Philippine National Men's Basketball Team Gilas Pilipinas, will be an active consultant for the Meralco Bolts, who have yet to win a championship since joining the league in 2010.
"We thank Coach Norman for his unwavering commitment and the indelible mark he has left on the organization. We are also grateful to have Coach Nenad and Coach Luigi taking on new roles in leading the Bolts," Meralco Bolts team manager and Luigi's brother Paolo Trillo said.
After the news about Luigi's appointment was made public, he said he would build on coach Norman's achievements in his nine years with the team.
"We have a good group of guys who are very hardworking and are excited about this next chapter," Trillo said. "I'm very grateful for the opportunity. I look forward to working closely with Coach Nenad and the whole team. We hope to build on coach Norman's significant achievements of the past nine years."
Meralco's shuffling of their coaching staff was taken out of the playbook of their sister team, the TNT Tropang Giga, who reigned supreme in the recently concluded 2023 PBA Governors' Cup.
Before the start of the season, TNT Tropang Giga management announced that PBA legend Jojo Lastimosa would take over as the head coach of the team, with Serbian Lale Gorunovic as an active consultant. In addition, TNT Tropang Giga head coach Chot Reyes took on a senior consultancy role as he focused on the Gilas Pilipinas program.
Since the TNT Tropang Giga has won over the crowd-favorite and the then-defending champions Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Trillo and the rest of the Meralco Bolts want to duplicate their success.
Luigi Trillo: An Experienced Coach
The name Luigi Trillo is known in the Philippine basketball scene. At 23 years old, Luigi became the youngest head coach in the University Athletics Association of the Philippines (UAAP) history when he took over Adamson University Soaring Falcons in 1999.
However, his inexperience as a young coach showed as the Adamson University Soaring Falcons did not win a single game in his first two seasons with the team. Although the Adamson University Soaring Falcons did not qualify for the playoffs in his five seasons with the team, the system he built reignited the school's basketball program.
While coaching the Adamson University Soaring Falcons in the UAAP, Luigi received an invitation from then-Alaska Aces head coach Tim Cone, who used to be his neighbor, to be his assistant coach in the PBA, which he accepted.
In his first season with Alaska, he helped the team to win the 2000 All-Filipino Conference. He also helped them in winning three other championships as an assistant coach.
After coaching Adamson, Luigi became the head coach of the Cebuana Lhuillier Gems in the defunct Philippine Basketball League and the PBA D-League.
When Coach Tim Cone resigned as head coach of the Alaska Aces after 22 seasons with the team that saw him win 13 championships, Coach Tim's lead assistant coach Joel Banal succeeded him as the head coach of the Alaska Aces for a three-year term.
However, due to his disappointing first two conferences at the helm of the Alaska Aces, Coach Joel stepped down as coach. Alaska owner Wilfred Uytengsu appointed Luigi, the longtime assistant coach and the son of then-team manager Joaqui Trillo, to the head coaching position beginning in the 2012 PBA Governors' Cup.
In his first conference with the Alaska Aces, the team missed the playoffs after finishing the eliminations with a disappointing 2-7 win-loss record.
And, during the 2012-13 PBA Season, Luigi's first entire season as head coach of the Alaska Aces, he worked his magic and immediately made an impression among the coaches, players, and fans as he battled the eventual champions TNT Tropang Texters during the 2012-13 PBA Philippine Cup semifinals.
Luigi Leading In 2013 PBA Commissioner's Cup
In the 2013 PBA Comissioner's Cup, Luigi led the team to win its 14th championship, the first since Tim Cone won the 2010 PBA Fiesta Conference. During that conference, the Alaska Aces topped the eliminations with an impressive 11-3 win-loss record.
In the quarterfinals, Alaska Aces quickly handled the Air21 Express, 87-81, to set up a best-of-five semifinal against San Mig Coffee Mixers, then coached by former Alaska Aces tactician Tim Cone. However, as he faced his mentor, the Alaska Aces dropped their first game, 69-71.
Fortunately, the Alaska Aces won the next three games to reach the finals for the first time since the 2010 Fiesta Conference. In the best-of-five finals, the Alaska Aces easily defeated the crowd-favorite Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in three games to clinch his first championship as head coach.
In the following 2013 PBA Governors' Cup, the Alaska Aces failed to sustain their momentum as they lost in the quarterfinals with a twice-to-win disadvantage against eventual winners, Petron Blaze Boosters Because of his achievements, he was awarded the 2012-13 PBA Coach of the Year by the press corps.
In his second season with the Alaska Aces, he failed to replicate his success in the 2013-14 PBA Philippine Cup and the 2014 PBA Commissioner's Cup. In the first conference, the Alaska Aces barely advanced to the playoffs as the eighth seed with a 5-9 win-loss record.
Facing the number one team, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, the Alaska Aces won the first game of the quarterfinals, 104-97. However, the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel won the series as they defeated the Alaska Aces in the second game, 108-95.
In the 2014 PBA Commissioner's Cup, the defending champions, Alaska Aces, finished the elimination rounds with an improved 6-3 win-loss record. But, unfortunately, they bowed out in the quarterfinals against the eventual winners, San Mig Super Coffee Mixers, then coached by Tim Cone.
In the 2014 PBA Governors' Cup, the Alaska Aces won their first match against the San Miguel Beermen before bowing out to GlobalPort Batang Pier, 95-91, the only win of GlobalPort Batang Pier in that conference.
After just two games, Luigi resigned as head coach of the Alaska Aces. No reason was given, but Alaska owner Wilfred Uytengsu said that Luigi left the job for "family reasons" and described the team's last three conferences as a "challenging ride."
Luigi was replaced by his assistant coach, Alex Compton, who served as the head coach of the Alaska Aces until 2019. Luigi took a sabbatical from basketball as he became an in-game analyst for the broadcast team of PBA.
In the 2014-15 PBA Season, Luigi announced that he would return to coaching as assistant coach to Norman Black in the Meralco Bolts. In the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup, Luigi was appointed interim head coach of the Meralco Bolts while coach Norman took a leave and returned home to the United States for personal reasons.
In his five games as the head coach of the Meralco Bolts, he led the team to an impressive 4-1 win-loss standing. Now that he's in the head coaching position again, this time permanently, the Meralco Bolts should have another chance at claiming the championship.