Tim Cone gets to do a little ‘writing’ for Philippine basketball | Inquirer Sports

Tim Cone gets to do a little ‘writing’ for Philippine basketball

/ 05:10 AM October 08, 2023

Coach Tim Cone gets the traditional celebratory ride from his players after the Philippines won the gold medal over Jordan in the men’s basketball final of the Asian Games. —AFP 

Philippines’ coach Earl Cone is carried by his team players after winning the gold medal game between Jordan and the Philippines at the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou in China’s eastern Zhejiang province on October 6, 2023. (Photo by William WEST / AFP)

Sometime at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Tim Cone spoke about how he wanted to pursue a career in writing before coaching made him abandon that dream.

He did some writing on Friday night in the Hangzhou Asian Games.


Cone, handed the keys to the team only a month ago, overcame one adversity after another to script the finest story of his coaching career and, for now, of the country.


“I’ve been able to coach in some grand slams, big championships and all that stuff, but this is something different, this is something special,’’ said the Barangay Ginebra coach.

“I think a lot of people thought we were the lambs being led to slaughter,” he said in a message to the Inquirer on Saturday on the way to Shanghai, from where the basketball contingent will take a flight back home. “But these guys had the belief that they could do something special.”

This national team practiced for less than two weeks and dealt with a manpower crisis days before leaving for the Asiad. In China, the team barely survived opponents and got a group-phase whipping from Jordan that forced it to a longer route to the gold medal.

Led by Justin Brownlee, the Philippines had to squeak past Iran before rallying to stun host China, which was raring for payback after an embarrassing loss to the Filipinos in the World Cup in Manila.

But all those problems turned out to be the fuel to end a 61-year wait for an Asian Games gold medal.


“I think we entered the Games with a collective chip on our shoulders,” Cone said.

“A lot of the guys had been together with [former national coach] Chot [Reyes] in the Southeast Asian Games and had that previous chemistry built by him,” he added. “As the wins started to mount, the [team’s]confidence grew.”

Fortuitous defeat

This picture will accompany a story that will be retold for years to come, one Tim Cone and the Philippine national team got to write in the Asian Games.

This picture will accompany a story that will be retold for years to come, one Tim Cone and the Philippine national team got to write in the Asian Games. —AFP

Looking back, the team’s 87-62 loss at the hands of Jordan in the preliminaries seemed fortuitous. That put the Philippines against China in the semifinals, instead of in a potential showdown for the gold. The Nationals rallied from a 20-point deficit to frustrate the hosts, 77-76.

But for Cone, the gift of that loss to Jordan was something different.

“The setback to Jordan gave us a slap of reality, but also gave us a renewed sense of purpose. We knew we had to get better so we changed some things up and the collective confidence again started to take hold and we used that all the way to the finals,” Cone said.

That was indeed the case for several players outside the steady Brownlee, Scottie Thompson and June Mar Fajardo. Kevin Alas hit timely baskets that greased China’s collapse, while Ange Kouame and Chris Newsome stepped up to help cut Jordan down to size in the final.

“The game with China was epic and so was the performance of Justin. That one got us over the hump,” Cone said.

In delivering the country’s first Asian Games in a long while, Cone finally soothed the heartbreak he suffered on the same stage in 1998.

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“I was so devastated in 1998 when we didn’t win. I was a young coach, I put a lot of pressure on my shoulders and stuff,’’ said Cone of the bronze-medal finish of the squad dubbed the Centennial Team.

But more importantly, the seasoned mentor got to do a little “writing” on the side—with the help of his indefatigable dozen. They wrote history and wove a great story that this basketball-crazed country’s fans will keep retelling and will be proud of after a seemingly endless string of blowouts, close shaves and heartbreaks.

TAGS: Asian Games, Gilas Pilipinas, Tim Cone

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