GINEBRA coach Tim Cone stressed Meralco hardly lacks championship experience, even saying the Bolts have more of it than the Gin Kings ahead of their PBA Governors’ Cup Finals showdown starting on Friday night.
Despite the Bolts set to make their finals debut as a unit since acquiring the Sta. Lucia franchise in 2010, Cone rattled off their personnel who have plenty of experience in the biggest stage of local basketball.
“(Merlaco’s) not a first-timer. Norman Black is not a first-timer,” Cone said with a chuckle after their blowout win over San Miguel Beer in the decider of their semifinal series on Tuesday night. “It’s all about the leadership over there.”
“I’ve had by battles with Norman,” he added of Black, who won a Grand Slam with San Miguel Beer in 1989, the same year Cone made his coaching debut in the league. “I felt my whole career was based on trying to climb over him because … Baby (Dalupan) was retiring soon and he was the new benchmark, so I’ve always been chasing Norman.”
“The organization may be new to the finals, but he’s been there multiple times in both the amateurs and PBA,” he added of Black.
Cone, however, has overtaken Black in terms of championships as the former is now the league’s most successful coach with 18 titles, seven more than Black’s total. Last time the distinguished mentors met in the finals was in the 2014 Commissioner’s Cup Finals where Cone’s San Mig Coffee beat Black’s Talk ‘N Text side, 3-1.
Cone, though, also mentioned Bolts assistant coach Luigi Trillo, his longtime deputy, and star playmaker Jimmy Alapag as others who have experience at this level.
“Jimmy knows how to win. He knows how to make his teammates win,” Cone said. “I don’t see them as the novice group that everybody else does.”
While the Gin Kings have more finals-tested players and are making a return to the title round after three years, Cone insisted the Bolts have the advantage as far as experience is concerned.
“To me, they are the experienced group, not us.”