Tim Cone continues charting B-Meg’s—and his own—journey to greatnessBy Francis T.J. Ochoa
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—It almost seemed early on that B-Meg coach Tim Cone had slipped in his post-game interview, when he casually mentioned that he was excited to “go up against [Talk ‘N Text coach] Chot [Reyes]” in the championship series—a day before the Texters were to face the Barako Bull Energy in a knockout match for the other Finals slot.
But he recovered quickly, adding that he was also excited to prepare against old, familiar rivals like Danny Seigle and Gabe Freeman in case the Energy won.
“I really can’t pick between the two. If Talk ‘N Text had won a close one to tie the series, I’d easily pick them to win the knockout match. But they won by a rout and that may push Barako Bull to come out fighting,” he added.
Just hours before that Tuesday evening post-game chat at the Araneta Coliseum, Cone committed a slip—and he needed a lot of help from his players to recover from that one.
“The funny thing is we had a 2-1 lead and I couldn’t sleep on one thought: I should do something risky. So I hatched a plan that we should start the game playing zone and try to surprise Ginebra,” Cone said.
“I told my players about the plan just before the game and they went ‘What?’” he revealed.
“Then [the Kings] jumped on us,” Cone said with a smile.
He can joke about it now, after the Llamados ousted the Kings, 108-84, to claim the first Finals seat of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup. But he certainly had some tense moments in the first quarter as Barangay Ginebra ran the B-Meg surprise through a shredder and erected an early 14-point lead.
“But we have guys who do not easily get discouraged. They fought back hard. There wasn’t really much coaching from me. The players won this game themselves,” he said.
It was a quick turnaround for a team that gained the top seed in the previous Philippine Cup only to get knocked off the playoffs by a Gary David-fueled Powerade. That loss has not only woven itself into franchise lore but is now part of the journey that Cone felt B-Meg needs to take to achieve the greatness that the American coach envisioned for the team when he took over its coaching reins.
“That was a bitter loss and we really hated it,” Cone said. “But that Powerade defeat helped us grow. It motivated us this conference.”
The defeat to the Tigers taught the Llamados a valuable lesson: You can’t take anything for granted. Having a talent-rich roster and a head coach with a vast trophy case doesn’t mean teams will wilt in fear when you step on the court to play them. Powerade taught B-Meg that. The quarterfinal series against Meralco validated the lesson.
Against Ginebra, the Llamados unveiled a physicality and tenacity that underlined their new philosophy: If you want something done, go ahead do it.
And now, in their first year trying to absorb the intricacies of the Triangle Offense, B-Meg has made it to the championship series.
“Well, it’s good to be back in the championship,” said Cone. “I’m tickled pink for the players, for [import] Denzel Bowles, for management. I feel really good for them right now.”
“It would be really nice to win the championship,” he added.
Of course, getting into the Finals is already a milestone of sorts for Cone. The Grand Slam coach first taught the Triangle Offense to Alaska in 1993 and the team suffered one of its most horrible seasons in franchise history.
“I was almost fired that year,” he said.
The Llamados are light years away from where the Aces were in 1993 but Cone said it’s because “it is easier for me to teach the Triangle now.”
Being in the championship also gives Cone his shot at closing in on the legendary Baby Dalupan’s record of 15 PBA crowns. Cone has already 13 titles to his name.
Ousting Ginebra Tuesday night gave Cone the luxury of watching the Talk ‘N Text-Barako Bull do-or-die match for the other Finals slot the following day. It’ll give him the chance to study both teams closely so he can prepare for whoever will be the final hurdle to his quest of winning a title for B-Meg and for his personal mission.
And it looks like he already has an inkling of who that team will be.