PBA Finals even because of ‘brilliant’ Cone, Black
Barangay Ginebra and Meralco are locked in a 1-1 tie in the best-of-seven title series for the PBA Governors’ Cup, with all the attention going to how great the players from both sides have been in making this a super close series.
Lost in all the action on the floor is how superlative coaching has been, with the Gin Kings and the Bolts being steered by two of the greatest minds to ever call the shots in the league.
“It’s top-of-the-line, no doubt about it,” Tommy Manotoc, the second to achieve a Grand Slam after the late great Baby Dalupan, told the Inquirer when asked what he thought of coaching thus far in the series.
Finals protagonists Tim Cone of Ginebra and Norman Black of Meralco are the other two PBA Grand Slam coaches.
“Both have been brilliant, as you can see with the scores (of the first two games),” said the 67-year-old Manotoc, who completed Crispa’s second Triple Crown sweep in 1983. “Because of Tim and Norman, this series is 50-50.”
Very few listed Meralco as a probable finalist with no true big-time players.
Ginebra, on the other hand, still didn’t seem ripe under Cone, especially with 7-foot franchise player Greg Slaughter playing just one game because of a knee injury.
But the Kings and the Bolts chopped down higher-ranked foes in the Final Four and sealed this confrontation not many saw coming, which comes as a whiff of fresh air for a league that didn’t do too well at the tills in the first two conferences.
“I have high respect for Tim and Norman and they both know what they are doing,” said Manotoc, who was also the first to break the Crispa-Toyota stranglehold on the league when his underrated U-Tex Wranglers upended Robert Jaworski and the Tamaraws.
Manotoc believes that, with the stakes this high, no team has a decided edge in manpower, whatever the paper says.
And that this series will be won on how the coaches ultimately perform.
“It will boil down to whoever reacts better during mid-game situations and in the endgames,” he said. “Both have great imports and capable local lineups. Coaching will prove to be key in this series.”
The first two games were decided by an average margin of 4.5 points, with Game 1 going to overtime and the second game hanging in the balance until the literal final second.
It has taken a defense-oriented complexion, something which Manotoc feels would favor Black and his Bolts.
But at the same time, once Cone figures out how he can get his Kings hot, Ginebra will have a great edge because of the firepower it packs.
Game 3 is slated tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“From a pure basketball lover’s standpoint, what Tim (Cone) and Norman (Black) are doing is coaching at its finest and all the others can pick up a thing or two from them,” he said.
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