Tim Cone wants Asian Games squad versatile enough to battle different styles
There was a running joke that got going in the Gilas Pilipinas locker room shortly after it triumphed against China in the 2023 Fiba World Cup.
“We’re making jokes after the China game: Woe to the next coach who will have to go to the Asian Games (Asiad) and play China after we beat their butts here in Manila,” recalled national team deputy coach Tim Cone.
“It turns out to be me [expletive],” he said with a chuckle on Thursday at the Philippine Basketball Association’s office in Quezon City, shortly after he was announced as the interim coach of the national squad.
The task is no laughing matter, however. With barely two weeks left until the Hangzhou meet, he has no team. And with each passing day, the window to train a squad is shrinking.
But Cone eased some of those worries that same day, saying the new management—though functioning on an interim basis—is in the process of reeling back in standouts who saw action in the World Cup.
June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar and Scottie Thompson have been called up to backstop naturalized ace Justin Brownlee. Also being considered are Chris Newsome and Calvin Oftana—two cuts from the last edition of the Gilas squad.
Ange Kouame, another naturalized player, is also under the radar and barring any complications from an impending offer from a European ball club, the 6-foot-10 big man should be available for the Philippines, which opens its campaign on Sept. 26 against Bahrain.
“There’s a process going on right now in terms of who we can get and I don’t want to disrupt that process by revealing those names we’re going after,” said Cone. “We’re just trying to fill out the positions. We don’t want to be too guard-heavy.”
“We’re looking for guys who can be versatile, swing into different positions. Like I’ve said, there’s a way to beat the Middle Eastern teams and China and there’s a way to beat the Koreans and the Japanese. You have the same team playing both those guys, so you probably won’t do very good. You’ll have to be versatile enough to change your game and fit who you’re playing and that’s what we’re hoping to do,” he added.
Cone said that his staff, which will feature Richard del Rosario, LA Tenorio, Jong Uichico and Josh Reyes, will try to come up with a 12-man crew by Monday, when the first practice session gets going at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
A short camp is also being eyed at Inspire Sports Academy in Laguna starting on Sept. 13, before the contingent leaves for China tentatively on Sept. 23.