THE man now carrying the torch for Barangay Ginebra paid tribute to the man who started it all.
Successful he may be in handling the coaching reins of the PBA’s most popular ballclub, coach Tim Cone stressed that nothing can still take away what primary leader Robert Jaworski did to turn the franchise to what it has become throughout these years.
“Now to be here with Ginebra and following his (Jaworski) legacy is something that is too good to be true,” said Cone after receiving his Outstanding Coach of the Bubble trophy Sunday during the PBA Press Corps virtual Awards Night at the TV5 Media Center.
“But it’s tough. He is who he is and I’ve never seen a charismatic leader like him before in my lifetime.”
Cone, a long-time fan of the iconic guard famous for his barreling drives and no. 7 jersey, honored Jaworski as he celebrates his 75th birthday on Monday.
The 63-year-old Cone, recipient of a PBA best coach award for the first time since taking over Ginebra in 2016, said despite his accomplishment as the winningest mentor in the storied history of Asia’s first ever play-for-pay league, Jaworski remains a tough act to follow.
“It’s really hard to follow Sonny’s legacy. He’s so incredible and unique. And we’re trying to live up to it all the time. He’s such a unique person and unique leader,” he said.
For Cone, the Big J is the PBA’s MIP.
“We always talk about MVPs, and stuff like that. But to me, he’s like the MIP. He’s the Most Important Person (MIP) in the history of our league. And without him we would be nowhere near where we are now,” he stressed.
“So his legacy is just over the top. It’s hard to even put it in words.”
Cone followed Jaworski’s career from the time he was still playing with Meralco in the defunct MICAA (Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association) all the way to his stint with Toyota in the PBA where the former senator would establish himself as among the league’s resident superstars during its early years.
Jaworski’s legend further grew when he became the playing-coach of Ginebra San Miguel in 1985, the year the team became known for its ‘never-say-die’ spirit as typified by its well-admired leader.
Cone was more grateful during the time he finally got into a coaching battle with his boyhood idol.
“It was always strange going up against him as a coach later on in life,” he said.
Ironically, Jaworski’s final PBA championship came at Cone’s expense when Ginebra (then carrying the name Gordon’s Gin) beat Alaska in six games to win the 1997 Commissioner’s Cup title.