NORMAN Black stood with his arms tucked across his chest in the final moments of Talk 'N Text’s 86-76 victory over San Mig Super Coffee in Game Two of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals on Sunday night.
On the other end, Tim Cone slouched on his seat with a distant stare, his chin resting on his hand as he pondered what went wrong for the Mixers in a game that saw the Texters level the best-of-five series at one-game apiece.
And so battle between two of the greatest coaches in the league continues on Tuesday when both are expected to make adjustments for the crucial Game Three of the series at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
While the battle on the court has been intense, Cone and Black have been engaging each other in their own chess match at the sidelines.
“Right now, that’s basically what this is all about. I don’t think either team really has a talent advantage,” Black said. “It’s gonna be up to the coaches to, one, keep the players as fresh as possible and keep them energized, and two, to study the games and try to come up with a better game plan for the next game.”
Cone, the league’s winningest coach in terms of championships won with 16, and the Mixers drew first blood in the opener, 95-80, as they shrugged off fatigue from two grueling series in the playoffs to put an end to the Texters’ impressive 13-game winning streak following a scintillating start in Game One.
But Black, the 11-time champion coach and third-most behind Baby Dalupan (15) and Cone, made the necessary adjustments the following game as the Texters raced to an early sizeable cushion and never looked back by stopping San Mig’s transition game.
“They were us (in Game Two) and we were them in Game One,” said Cone, who benched stars James Yap and PJ Simon basically the entire second half in what appears to be a ploy that may reap benefits in the long run.
Cone later explained that the benching of his stars was part of his "big-picture thinking," saying he was focusing not just on Game Two but the entire series.
“In a series, you have to have big-picture thinking,” the San Mig coach said. “We’re trying to think championship. It’s about winning three games for us and whatever way we can do it, we’ll do it.”
Now, it’s back to square one.
While he expects Cone to make his moves, but Black also tries to keep his counterpart guessing.
“We may not make as many adjustments as we did for Game Two, but we’ll still try to make some adjustments,” Black said.