Coach Alex Compton

Straight Outta Compton: Coach Alex and Why He Left The Philippines

Alex Compton is back in town for NBTC 2024, over three years after he quietly left the country with his family.

For over 20 years, Alex Compton was a familiar face in the Philippine basketball landscape.

He first burst onto the scene in 1998 as a sweet-shooting guard for the Manila Metrostars in the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA). Although a full-blooded American, he was allowed to play as a local since he was born in Makati to missionary parents.

After the MBA folded in 2002, Compton went on to play for six years in another defunct semi-pro league, the Philippine Basketball League (PBL). He would never achieve his dream of playing as a local in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) since the league had more stringent rules governing a player’s classification. Even though he was born here, Compton was ineligible to play in the PBA as a local because he did not have any Filipino lineage.

He did, however, briefly suit up as an import for the Welcoat Dragons as an import in 2008. By this time, Compton had already begun two other careers in coaching and sportscasting. He eventually bounced around the PBA as an assistant for the Welcoat/Rain or Shine franchise, the Coca-Cola/Powerade franchise, and finally the Alaska Aces.

In 2014, he was promoted to head coach of the Aces, a position he held for five years. During this time, the Aces made it to the finals five times, but unfortunately were never able to win it all.

So what happened?

At the end of the 2019 Commissioner’s Cup, where the Aces were eliminated in the quarterfinals, Alex Compton was let go.

“So (Alaska team owner) Fred (Uytengsu) fired me in August of 2019,” Compton told The GAME in an exclusive interview. “I had eight days left in my contract. And it was really time for me to move on. It was the right call. I don’t feel bad about that. It was a great run.

“And then I had actually been offered an assistant coaching job with the national team, with Gilas. I was actually really excited about that. In my mind, that was like, ‘Wow, it’s the national program. You can’t play for anything more important.’ And I don’t have to deal with…I’m just the assistant coach. So Tab (Baldwin) has to run everything, and I’m just one of the guys helping out. Like, this is perfect.

“I was a little burned out after five years as a head coach in the PBA. And so it was great.”

However, the pandemic messed up all these plans, and Compton found himself stuck in his condominium unit with his wife and three young children. In late 2020, the Comptons quietly left the country for what was supposed to be a temporary stay at his parents’ place in Wisconsin. It eventually turned into a permanent relocation.

“That wasn’t the plan,” he said. “This (Manila) was home. Me and my wife, we had never thought of leaving. And then this little thing called Covid hit. Our kids, with all the lockdown stuff, they couldn’t even go to the hallway of our condo unit. And our kids at the time were eight, six and four.

“My wife’s part-Irish, so she has a foreign passport. So it was only foreigners who were allowed to leave. So we just said, ‘Okay, let’s go visit my parents in Wisconsin.’ At least the kids could play outside and we could see my parents. So we get some family time and we could get the kids out into the fresh air.

“And then we got stuck. Like, we couldn’t come back. So it was like, ‘All right. I guess we’re moving here.’ So we got stuck in Wisconsin, decided to move, and we’ve been there since.”

Change of scenery

Plenty happened in the local basketball scene since Alex Compton left. He admits he doesn’t keep too many tabs on the PBA nowadays, as he’s moved on to another life in the States.

“(I follow the PBA) a little bit,” he revealed. “I was so utterly immersed in it for like, 20 years that when I moved back it was just time for a different pace of life. So now I’ve experienced coaching at the highest level, which is 5th grade boys’ basketball at a small private Christian school, which is like teaching kids to shoot layups. It’s a little different, but it’s been fun coaching my kids.

“I gave it a good swing I know I could have done better. I know I could have done worse. But I gave it my best swing, had some fun, made some memories. But I don’t miss how much you’re laying in bed at night trying to think about, ‘What about this play? What if this happened? How can I do this?’ I like being home present mentally with my family.”

But there was one development that definitely caught his eye, and this was when the Alaska franchise formally bade goodbye to the PBA after 35 years in 2021. So how did he feel when he found out?

“I think sad in a sense because Alaska had meant so much to the PBA for so long,” he answered. “I was just there for the tail end of it. I kind of rode that wave, if you will. But also not surprised. I had sensed some things that I would probably tell you without a recorder. So I was not surprised. So yeah, sad but not surprised.”

Back in town for his ‘baby’

Aside from coaching his sons, Compton keeps busy with a new company he set up in Wisconsin with “a buddy” and a new book he is co-writing “with a Filipino buddy” called “Wisest Learners For Parents.” He has certainly settled down and is enjoying a quiet life in suburban America.

But when Eric Altamirano called him up and asked him to return to the Philippines for the 2024 Smart-National Basketball Training Center (NBTC) National Finals that will run the whole of next week at the Mall of Asia Arena, Compton couldn’t say no. After all, he was there for the project’s inception around 15 years ago, and he’s been there every year except last year.

The NBTC is the brainchild of coaches Alex Compton and Eric Altamirano. (NBTC)

“It’s really our baby,” he said of the NBTC, which has since grown into the premier high school basketball event in the country where the top Filipino high school players from here and abroad converge. Among its distinguished alumni are Kai Sotto and current Houston Rockets star Jalen Green.

“Coach E (Altamirano) sitting in his living room saying, ‘Alex, dapat may programa tayo year round para sa mga bata.’ Because we were coming from the Nike Elite Camp. So we started just shooting down ideas. ‘What about this? That won’t work. Okay, what about this?’ And then we tried something. But it was so far from where we are now. It was so different. It was like, just keep the wheels turning. If there’s a need, then we can always adjust. We had to change a lot. So that’s really encouraging.”

Compton is very pleased with how the event has evolved. This year, there will be 32 high school teams, including seven from abroad, and a return of a coaches’ convention after a five-year absence. He may no longer be as involved as he once was, but he has made it clear he will always answer the call to help out.

“All these people are coming together to try to help each other out to provide these opportunities for kids. It’s so far from where we started. It’s a really cool thing to be part of.

“I’ll always be a part of it, but it’s hard to do the day-to-day from there. If he (Altamirano) needs me back, I can’t see missing another one.”

Banner image from Sid Ventura.

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