MISERY loves company, they love to say, and Star fans can take solace from Alaska supporters after Tim Cone left the Hotshots to coach Barangay Ginebra.
Their Alaska counterparts have 'been there, done that' four years ago.
The latest coaching rigodon among teams under the SMC umbrella has left Hotshots fans in a state of shock that some of them even went to the extent of posting petitions on different media and social networking sites asking the big bosses to reconsider their decision.
Cone’s transfer however, is ready to be formalized as a press conference featuring the most accomplished coach in the PBA history is set on Thursday at the SMC headquarters.
For Alaska fans though, they’ve been exactly in this same situatio when Cone abruptly announced he was stepping down as coach of the Aces four years ago following a 23-year coaching stint from 1988 to 2011.
“Naramdaman rin namin yun before. Kasi we were very stable then with him (Cone at the helm). Pag alis niya hinahanap talaga siya ng team,” recalled Rey Tan, an avid Alaska fan since 1988.
“That time talaga two years din kaming nasaktan. Two years din kaming hindi nakatulog. Kasi ang sakit-sakit talaga. Everytime nga maisip ko nun ang PBA, parang nawawalan ako ng gana. Kasi masakit pagkawala ni coach Tim sa amin,” he added.
Unlike Star followers, Tan bared they were luckier during the time Cone left the team since the Aces had a veteran coach in Joel Banal to fall back on.
“Tingin ko mas masakit para sa Star fans yung pagkawala ni coach Tim than with us before. Pero I can say that 23 years is such a long stint for a coach (with us). Hindi biro 'yun, pero mas masakit para sa Purefoods fans,” added Tan, a regional sales manager of Globalwind Household Insecticide company.
Asked to elaborate, the outspoken original member of the popular Gatas Republic pointed to the Hotshots’ uncertain future.
“Uncertain talaga ang future nila ngayon. Imagine having (a rookie coach) in Jason Webb? What can he offer to the team? Bakit hindi sila Johnny (Abarrientos) o Richard (del Rosario) na matagal nang nasa bench ni coach Tim?” said Tan.
“You’re going into the unknown. Walang malinaw na future for Star. Kasi kami nun (when Cone left), si Joel Banal ang pumalit. At least alam namin na beterano ang magiging chief anchor sa bench ng team,”’ he added.
Cone took over the coaching chores from Jorge Gallent starting in the 2011-12 season in a stint that produced five championships – including a grand slam last year - in six trips to the Finals.
But Tan hopes the latest coaching change won’t lead to the Hotshots suffering the same fate endured by their sister teams, Ginebra and San Miguel.
“Very uncertain talaga ang future ng Purefoods. I just hope hindi magiging next Ginebra ang Purefoods na magpapalit nang magpapalit ng coach, pero very prone sila dyan. Look at the other teams. Sa San Miguel lang bago dumating si Leo Austria, ilang coaching changes sila. So may precedent,” he said.
“Nangyari na before, posibleng mangyayari ulit 'yan (coaching woes).”
Tan said Alaska management’s sensible coaching choices after Cone somehow eased the pain of the two-time grand slam-winning mentor’s abrupt departure.
“Mahirap talikuran ang sakit nyan. Kaso kami kasi nun, tinuloy lang namin suporta sa team. Until luckily, nakahanap kami ng Luigi Trillo, who brought us to another championship, and Alex Compton who continued the winning tradition of Alaska,” he said.
“Pero sabi ko nga sa iyo, hindi madaling makalimutan ang sakit nyan. You will only forget about the pain once nagsimula nang magpapanalo ang team mo. Kasi kami two years bago naka-recover.”
“Mawawala lang 'yan kung magsisimula na ulit silang maniwala. Once manalo sila, like us, kakalimutan na nila si Tim Cone.”
Jhet De Jesus, another avid Alaska fan who is very active on social media, also encourages supporters of both Star and Ginebra not to be very emotional about the Cone issue.
De Jesus is well aware of the intense rivalry between fans of both teams, which once engaged in a nasty fight at the red gate of the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“Sana tanggapin na lang nila. Ganun talaga eh, business 'yan. Kung di mo tatanggapin, lalo ka masasaktan. Kailangan mag-move on ka na lang agad,” said De Jesus.
“Sana lang wag na mag-result sa away pang lalo nung dalawang teams. Respeto na lang, wala ring kasalanan 'yung fans ng Ginebra. Kaso ganun talaga,” he added.