LIKE any father-son relationship, Johnny Abarrientos’ ties with coach Tim Cone isn’t perfect.
In fact, the ‘Flying A’ recalled the relationship almost ended in 2001.
“Nagkaroon kami ng tampuhan when I got traded for some reason,” Abarrientos disclosed in the latest ‘Kamustahan’ episode of the PBA.
The sentiment of the legendary point guard was understandable.
For almost a decade, he ran Cone’s triangle offense at Alaska in a partnership that produced nine championships for the franchise including a coveted grand slam in 1996 and an MVP trophy for the brilliant playmaker out of Far Eastern University.
The two even teamed up with the national team when Cone named Abarrientos part of the Centennial Team that won the basketball bronze medal in the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok.
And so it came as a shock to him – and to almost everybody else – when Cone gave the green light to a trade that moved Abarrientos and big man Poch Juinio to Pop Cola for the duo of Ali Peek and Jon Ordonio.
But time heal all wounds.
Cone had just taken the coaching job at B-Meg (Purefoods franchise) in 2011 when Abarrientos decided to finally call it a career at Barangay Ginebra. The legendary mentor didn’t lose time offering his former star a job as part of the team’s coaching staff.
That proved the first step in their reconciliation.
“Until such time na magkita ulit kami and kinuha niya ako (for B-Meg). Nagulat nga ako nagkaroon ng ganoong transition, e,” said the 5-foot-7 guard, nephew of former PBA player Virgilio ‘Haba-Haba’ Abarrientos.
The reunion proved productive. Together the two produced four more championships with the Purefoods franchise, again capped by a grand slam in 2014.
“Grand slam na player and grand slam na coach,” added Abarrientos. “For me and coach Tim, parang sobrang gaan.”
The two eventually parted ways again when Cone left Purefoods for Barangay Ginebra. But this time, there was no rancor on the part of Abarrientos, who only has gratitude to the most accomplished mentor in the history of the PBA.
“Grabe talaga yung blessing. Sobrang sarap ng basketball, sobrang nai-enjoy namin together,” he said.
The misunderstanding between teacher and mentor is already a thing of the past. More than anything else, Abarrientos treats the 62-year-old Cone as his father in basketball.
“Hindi lang as a mentor yung natutunan ko kay coach Tim,” he said. “Sabi nga nila pag nakikita nila ako, tapos padating si coach Tim, sasabihin nila, ‘Tatay mo.’ Ganun na, e. Sobrang lalim na ng samahan.”