“This is about winning multiple championships in the future.”, Tim Cone Said While Coaching Bmeg
“I could really use a core that understands the offense right now,” said new B-Meg coach Tim Cone with a laugh.
More than two decades after he started, here he was at the beginning anew. Teaching the rudiments and intricacies of the triangle offense again. Blowing the whistle on the slightest error and patiently explaining every option, every nuance, helping his new team flesh out the Xs and Os of his system.
It was worse on his first day. In front of every significant official from San Miguel Corp., Cone, recalling how “surreal and pressure-filled” it felt to be in a new organization for the first time since 1992, tried to get his new players to run a little triangle.
“And I went ‘Woah! We’ve got a lot of work to do,’” Cone said.
But this is exactly what he signed up for when he ended a 22-season relationship with Alaska, one decked with 13 championship trophies—including the 1996 Grand Slam, the league’s last triple crown. He needed to shed himself of the monster he had created by daring himself to create an even bigger one.
“I really felt like I had reached my ceiling with Alaska,” said Cone.
With each passing season, no matter the outcome, Cone would always be compared to his 1990s version. Every championship victory with the Aces after that glorious run merited little surprise, every defeat questioned.
“I was battling my own legacy,” he said.
And so he sought out the opportunity to create a new one, the chance to start fresh without every failure magnified, every success shrugged off.
“Maybe it’s mid-life crisis,” said the 53-year-old mentor. “But I really felt I needed a different situation. I wanted to perk myself up. After 22 years, I felt now was the right time for me to make such a move.
“At some point in your life, you really want to see if you can do something different.”
From scratch He needed to dare himself to move out of his comfort zone and see if he had what it took to start from scratch and guide a team to the top. Never mind that B-Meg has, on paper, one of the best collection of talents in the league today. For a coach whose basketball blueprint must define a ballclub, this is scratch.
“When I was at Alaska, we still ran the fundamentals and practiced them every day,” he said. “But there, I had a core that understood the system. Here, I don’t even have the coaching staff that fully understands my system or who knows how to run the triangle the way I do.”
Help will come soon. Johnny Abarrientos, the key to the Alaska engine during that dominant 90s stretch, will join Cone’s coaching staff after his commitment with Far Eastern U in the UAAP. Jeffrey Cariaso, who also lives and breathes the triangle, is arriving from the United States on Friday to serve as one of Cone’s deputies.
But for now, Cone is laying down the foundation of his team’s offense brick by brick. The tailend of B-Meg’s practice was spent exploiting every available opportunity the triangle presents—from the first open shot down to the offensive putbacks it allows.
Photo by Francis Ochoa/InquirerSports
“Listen guys. From here,” he tells big men Joe Devance, Rico Maierhofer and Rafi Reavis, pointing to the freethrow line’s elbow, “it’ll be very hard for opponents to box you out.”
Follow your shots, he coaxes them.
When an option goes unexplored, Cone doesn’t hesitate to stop a scrimmage mid-play to explain how the players can peel away from the defense better. He’ll stop a drill to teach them how to make the right pass to a cutter.
Rather than complain at being taught what should be elementary stuff for a bunch of pros, the Llamados soak in every word, every piece of advice.
“Right now, I’m just trying to inculcate the culture to a whole new group of guys and trying to find out for myself how fast I can do it,” said Cone.
Alaska took a season to master the triangle. Cone started teaching it to the Aces in 1993. Coincidentally, that was their worst year in the Cone era.
“I hope it doesn’t happen here,” he joked.
Cone’s goals are simple for now. He feels no sense of urgency—yet—to turn B-Meg into an overnight dynasty. He just wants the Llamados to be the apple of the eye of San Miguel Corp.
“Right now, we want to beat Petron and Ginebra,” he said. “They’re the prized jewels of SMC and if we become better than them, we should be able to compete against the best in the league. We should be able to compete against the likes of Talk ‘N Text.”
Closure And then, of course, there is that little thing about finally putting closure to the Alaska chapter of his career. Cone sifted through all the rumors that filled sports pages and online sites and was amazed at everything that had been written.
He said, though, that none of the rumors were true. When he announced his departure from Alaska, he hadn’t signed up with any team, nor had he agreed verbally with any squad. He listened to every available offer, the challenge each offer presented, before picking B-Meg.
“Bottomline is SMC had the No. 1 vision for me,” said Cone. “What they offered was a chance for me to also become part of the corporate structure and get myself involved with different sports, not just basketball.
“Money wasn’t an issue at all.”
But all that doesn’t assuage the Alaska pain. Especially that of team owner Wilfred Steve Uytengsu. Uytengsu and Cone weren’t just a paradigm for winning the right way, they were often the league’s moral compass in the thorniest issues it faced.
“I understand that he was hurt,” Cone said of his former boss. “He had that vision of me riding into the sunset with Alaska and I kinda screwed up that vision.”
But he’s not making anything out of it, or of the October 12 playdate when the Llamados and the Aces collide in an expectantly charged atmosphere.
More than two decades after his PBA start, Cone is back in the beginning, teaching again, laying foundations again. It would be infantile to think he’d go through all that for just one game.
“I’m not about one game. This is not even about winning just one championship,” he said. “This is about winning multiple championships in the future.”