Tim Cone leaves Alaska Aces; Joel Banal takes over as coach
Seeking new challenges, Cone announced Thursday that he’s leaving the franchise that made him a multi-titled taskmaster and a byword in the Philippine Basketball Association.
Cone stepped down after a colorful coaching career spanning 22 years with the Aces, highlighted by 13 championships, including a historic grand slam in 1996.
“I discussed it with my family. This process actually started weeks ago. Maybe it’s just a mid-life crisis but honestly, I want to do something different. I’ve reached my 50s and it seems there’s more out there at this point,” said Cone during a press conference presided by team owner Wilfred Uytengsu .
“It didn’t come to me like a lightning bolt, it came on gradually. Once the decision was made and that step taken, it’s probably a point of no return.”
“For Alaska, the show must go on,” said Uytengsu, who later announced that senior assistant coach Joel Banal will take over from Cone.
“The target remains the same and that’s to become the winningest franchise in PBA history,” Uytengsu added.
Banal, who captured championships with Talk ‘N Text in 2002 and 2003, a UAAP crown with Ateneo in 2001 and a couple of NCAA titles with Mapua, has been signed to a fresh three-year contract.
Cone, the most accomplished coach in league history after Virgilio “Baby” Dalupan of the now defunct Crispa, made it clear that he had not received or signed an offer from another PBA team, quelling speculations that the B-Meg Llamados would be his next coaching destination.
“There are rumors flying all over but I haven’t been given an offer. This is just a parting of ways (with Alaska) and taking my career path to a different direction,” said Cone, who opted out of the remaining two years of his contract.
Aside from bringing the Aces to 25 PBA Finals appearances, Cone also steered the national team to a bronze-medal finish in the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games, the year Alaska sacrificed another grand slam opportunity for flag and country.
Asked if he’s going to coach again, Cone said: “Very definitely. That’s what I am. Coaching is in my blood. I really want to stay in the game. The greatest challenge for me is to take the things that I learned here in this organization and bring it where I will end up.”
“I guess I’m disappointed that I’m not going to see Tim break Baby Dalupan’s record (15 titles) coaching Alaska but certainly we wish him well and all the success in the future,” said Uytengsu during the press conference also attended by team manager Joaqui Trillo, Banal and several key Alaska players.
“I was surprised when he (Cone) asked for his release last week. He told me he wanted to challenge himself and seek new horizons. I’m sure Tim is going to be very attractive to other franchises and whichever team signs him up will be lucky.”
Cone said the Aces are in good hands under Banal. He added it’s also a good time to leave since the team remains a very strong contender in the Philippine Cup of the coming PBA season.
“It’s like a marriage. We always had our ups and downs, but there were tremendous amounts of ups than there were downs,” said Cone.
“The timing is right because the team is in a good spot. The things that I learned from this organization are valuable life lessons and I’ll carry all those lessons to my grave. For that, I’ll be truly beyond grateful,” added Cone.
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