FOR coach Tim Cone, a stint in the PBA Governors Cup Finals meant being on track again to tying the all-time record of 15 league championships won by the legendary Virgilio 'Baby' Dalupan.
Cone put himself in the position to catch 'The Maestro' after San Mig Coffee booked a berth in the best-of-seven title series by eliminating Meralco in Game Four of their best-of-five semifinal showdown.
For the 55-year-old American mentor, being mentioned in the same breath as Dalupan, the revered former league and national coach, is quite an honor in itself.
Though in all honesty, Cone said he doesn’t think of tying Dalupan’s record at all.
“I really don’t think about that (tying Dalupan’s championship record) at all. Honestly, it’s there. I already tried once but I didn’t make it with (import) Marqus (Blakely),” said Cone, referring to his first attempt at equalling Dalupan’s record last year that fell short as the Mixers lost to Rain or Shine in the deciding Game Seven of the Governors Cup Finals.
Interestingly, Cone, a George Washington University alumnus, had a memorable face-off with Dalupan while still with Alaska during the 1990 Third Conference Finals.
Just one year into his PBA coaching career, Cone steered the Milkmen to the championship series and were actually on the verge of winning the title over Dalupan and Purefoods when they went up 2-0, in the best-of-five showdown.
But 'The Maestro' just won’t allow this one to go away and dipped into his bag of tricks to win the next three games of the series to bag his 15th and final championship in Asia’s first ever play for pay league.
After failing to make history last season, Cone has another shot at it, though he’d rather not focus on the matter.
“You just keep playing games day by day, and whatever happens happen. I guess that’s how I’ve approached all our championships. Just don’t look beyond what’s in front of you, so that’s the best way to approach it,” explained Cone, who began his coaching career in 1989 with the Alaska franchise.
He spent the next 22 years calling the shots for the Aces, who he steered to a total of 13 championships including a rare Grand Slam in 1996 behind the core of Jojo Lastimosa, Johnny Abarrientos, Bong Hawkins, Jeff Cariaso and Poch Juinio.
For this year, Cone admits coveting a championship again not for personal glory but for the players.
“Just being mentioned along with Baby (Dalupan) is already a real thrill for me. But again, it’s not something I focus on. Most of all, I just want to win a championship with the players, they worked hard and we reached the Finals. That’s what I want to do,” he said.