SAN Mig Super Coffee coach Tim Cone is set to arrive early Saturday in time for the Mixers' crucial game against Air21 after a whirlwind five-day US trip to the NBA D-League Showcase where he scouted prospective imports for the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
Cone left shortly after steering San Mig to an 83-79 upset of fancied sister team Barangay Ginebra Kings last Sunday, leaving his staff led by Jeff Cariaso to handle the team's preparations for the Air21 game.
The move is a gamble considering the Mixers are still unsure of clinching a playoff spot in the PLDT myDSL-PBA Philippine Cup, where they are tied for sixth to ninth places with the Meralco Bolts, Alaska Aces, and Globalport Batang Pier on 4-7 win-loss records.
Only eight teams will advance to the playoffs.
Cariaso, Cone’s trusted deputy, said the esteemed league bench tactician left early this week to catch the Showcase, which provides foreign coaches a rare opportunity to check out import prospects from the D-League, including players who are coming straight out of college.
“Coaches and scout all go to the D-League Showcase in Reno. You know coach Tim, he’s got a magic touch in picking imports,” Carisao told Spin.ph on Friday.
“There are a lot of young guys there who are fresh from college, guys who in the future will be playing overseas if they fail to make it to the NBA,” he added.
The San Mig deputy coach said after his five-day Reno trip, Cone will have a good idea on the import the Mixers hopes to bring in for the mid-season conference, which is tentatively set to start on March 7.
“He (Cone) wants to see those guys (D-League players) so he can have a short list of (import prospects),” he said.
Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio admitted the D-League Showcase had been helpful in his search for import prospects during his trips to Reno in 2012 and last year.
“Yes, it is a venue for scouts and coaches to go to one place and see everybody play. It is cost-efficient,” said Gregorio, who had also bumped into Cone and former Ginebra coach Siot Tanquingcen in his 2013 trip.
Last season’s Commissioner’s Cup Best Import candidate Eric Dawson was a product of the D-League Showcase, according to Gregorio.
“I saw Eric Dawson play there that is why I signed him to play for Meralco (last year),” he said.
“There are a lot of NBA scouts and NBA directors of player personnel in the arena. There are also foreign scouts, and foreign coaches. Korean coaches are also there to get possible reinforcements,” he added.