Thursday, September 22, 2011
ngayong nandito na si Coach Tim, iniisip nila, baka nga pwede silang mag-Grand Slam.-Alvin Patrimonio
For most of the past 23 years, Alvin Patrimonio has been the face of the Purefoods franchise.
These days, a smile has been indelible on that face, thanks in large part to the entry of legendary coach Tim Cone into the B-MEG Llamados fold.
“Parang nabuhayan ang team,” said Patrimonio, who now serves as team manager of the only franchise he played for in his 17-year career. “Ang taas ng morale nila.”
Patrimonio, a four-time Most Valuable Player who remains one of the most popular personalities in Philippine basketball, was initially taken by surprise by the news that Tim Cone was leaving Alaska.
“He was with Alaska for 22 years, and I didn’t think he would leave,” said Patrimonio. “I mean, imagine mo ako kung umalis ako ng Purefoods, I’ve been here for 23 years — more than half my life.”
“But I guess he wanted to try something new, he wanted a new challenge.”
Adjusting to the triangle
For the first couple of weeks of practice, Cone is taking the team through a series of drills to introduce them to the triangle offense. The coach said that while he has an idea of how to use star players like James Yap or Kerby Raymundo in the system, he would still need them to get familiar with the offense first.
“The problem with a team that’s been together this long is that they have some habits that we need to break,” said the former Alaska coach, referring to his veteran crew which include two-time PBA Most Valuable Player Yap, Raymundo, Marc Pingris, Peter June Simon, and Roger Yap — the core of a team which was won two Philippine Cup titles in three all-Filipino finals appearances.
“Historically, this team has been in the bottom three of the league in assists — it’s a one-on-one, isolation team. Alaska, meanwhile, was always in the top three of the league in assists.”
While talking about Cone joining B-MEG, Patrimonio sounded less like a manager in charge of basketball operations, and more like a giddy father excited about the prospect of his kids playing for the highly-regarded coach.
“Si James, nanonood naman ‘yan ng mga laro ng Los Angeles Lakers o kahit ng Chicago Bulls noon,” said Patrimonio, referring to the legendary teams coached by Phil Jackson who, like Cone, also ran the triangle offense. “He can play the Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan role.”
“Tapos si Roger Yap, pwedeng magbaba ng bola, pwedeng dumepensa, parang si Scottie Pippen. Si Pingris can play the role of Dennis Rodman.”
Patrimonio believes it’s the duty of the players to adjust to the system. Having played for ten different coaches in his career, he knows whereof he speaks.
“Kahit ang mga star, dapat mag-adjust,” said Patrimonio. “Dapat i-submit niya ang sarili niya sa system para maging successful.”
Cone, for his part, still knows where his bread is buttered when it came to the offensive end.
“James will still be the focal point of the offense, along with Kerby, of course,” he said. “But with the triangle, we’ll allow James to pick his spots and not to work so hard to get his shots.”
Centennial Team memories
Patrimonio sees parallels to 1998 when, having been tapped by Cone to be part of the Centennial Team, the forward had to adjust to the equal-opportunity triangle offense instead of the familiar isolation plays that Purefoods ran for him.
“Ako nga, I was already a four-time MVP, but I had to adjust to Coach Tim,” he said. “I was actually excited to learn from him [when I joined the Centennial Team].”
Patrimonio’s experience with the national team in 1998 gives him deeper insight about what a star player needs to undergo when playing in the triangle.
“You need to be very smart. Actually, you need to use all of your basketball smarts, to read defenses. At saka kailangan, unselfish ka. But it’s a great system.”
Keeping with the Centennial theme is the reunion of former Alaska stalwarts Johnny Abarrientos and Jeffrey Cariaso, who have been tapped as assistant coaches by Cone.
“Nakasama ko rin sila noon sa Centennial Team, kaya masaya,” said Patrimonio of the two members of the staff. “They’ll be able to help the guys adjust faster to the system.”
“Plus, sino ba naman ang hindi ma-i-inspire sa drills sa practice, kung ang nagpapasa sa ‘yo ng bola, si the Flying A?”
Beyond the triangle
While most casual fans know Cone for his devotion to the triangle offense, basketball insiders are quick to point out that what makes the American mentor a special coach is his painstaking dedication to the defensive end.
“Most people say that I’m a triangle coach, but that’s not correct,” said Cone. “I am a defensive coach.”
“The plan is to get the players familiar with the triangle offense for the first couple of weeks, then when they know enough, we’ll put that aside. Then we’ll work on our defense.”
Patrimonio, the most dangerous low-post beast in the PBA during his heyday, knows firsthand just how lethal Cone’s schemes are on the defensive end.
“Ang ginagawa niya sa akin dati, first three quarters, lax ang defense, so syempre, gagawa ako,” Patrimonio related, mimicking his textbook perfect jumpshot as he told the story. “Yun pala, mauubusan ka pag ganun. Tapos fourth quarter, biglang magta-tighten yung defense ng Alaska.”
He said that he’s excited to see what Cone can bring to the Purefoods franchise on both ends of the floor. And the B-MEG players, he said, feel the same way too.
“Tingnan mo sila,” Patrimonio said, pointing to the visible spring in the step of the Llamados players as they went through Cone’s triangle drills. “Tingnan mo yung mga mukha nila.”
“Iniisip ng mga ‘yan, pwede na ulit mangarap. At the back of their minds, ngayong nandito na si Coach Tim, iniisip nila, baka nga pwede silang mag-Grand Slam.”