ON Friday night, Tim Cone equalled the all-time PBA record for most championships won by a PBA coach with 15 held by the legendary Virgilio `Baby’ Dalupan.
Ironically, Cone got a bitter lesson from the 'Maestro' himself right on his first Finals appearance in the league.
“A lot of people don’t know that my first Finals appearance was against him (Dalupan), who would win his last championship,” recalled Cone of the 1990 Third Conference Finals back when he was still calling the shots for Alaska.
Cone and the Milkmen then held a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series, but unfortunately, were swept by Dalupan and Purefoods in the next three games to win the franchise’s maiden PBA championship.
“I just remembered back then that I was intimidated coaching against him,” said the American mentor.
But 23 years after, Cone now stands side by side with Dalupan as two of the most successful coaches in the 38-year history of Asia’s first professional league after steering the Mixers to the Governors Cup title with a 87-77 Game Seven win over Petron at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The San Mig coach said its’ incredibly humbling to be mentioned in the same breath as Dalupan, who just turned 90 last October 19
“It’s just an incredible personal story for me, an incredible journey,” said Cone, a self-confessed fan of Toyota, considered as the archrival of the Crispa team Dalupan coached to a total of nine championships.
“Crispa would beat Toyota so many times, so you understand why they would beat them and you would blame it on the coach. And so I blame it on Baby that he’d beaten my team,” said Cone smiling.
But those losses by a star-studded Toyota squad to the the powerhouse Redmanizers eventually paved the way for Cone to truly appreciate the coaching genius of Dalupan, who also won numerous championships with University of the East in the UAAP and Ateneo in the NCAA.
“He’s such a humble man, he’s just so special,” said Cone of the coaching legend with whom he met and hang out with a couple of times before.
“He just got an aura about him,” added the San Mig coach, who wished Dalupan, now half blind, was at the venue on this special night in his coaching career.
Cone said Dalupan had such a great impact on his life coaching-wise, that he hopes he’d be able to do the same thing among the batch of coaches today.
“I hope I can have the same impact on some of the young guys out there right now,” Cone stressed.