TIM Cone collected his 17th PBA championship as a head coach on Thursday night following San Mig’s 3-1 PBA Commissioner’s Cup title conquest of Talk ‘N Text at the Philsports Arena.
But he can’t help but take a trip down the memory lane, to the time when he first started coaching in 1989 with Alaska Milk in the same venue, which was then known as the Ultra.
“I remembered Ultra really well because one of my first games was against San Miguel Beer. I joined Alaska during the Grand Slam year of (then San Miguel coach) Norman Black,” recalled the pro league’s all-time winning coach.
Cone said following a loss to Black and the Beermen on April 1989, encouraging words which Black told him when they bumped into each other at the Ultra carpark left a lasting impression on him.
“I came in April and started in the second conference. We got beat in the second or third game, and I happen to see him (Black) in that walk way going to (Ultra) car park," said the San Mig coach.
"Then, he told me after the game, ‘Hey Tim, if your team keeps playing like that, you’re team will win a lot of games,’” Cone added.
“I remember that. I can see his (Black) face right now telling me that. It was such an impactful thing he say to me, and he probably did not remember.”
Ironically, Cone beat Black and his Talk 'N Text team to win his 17th league championship - six more than Black's 11 and more than any other coach in the league's 39 years.
That brief encounter with Black 25 years ago was on his mind when Cone gave a steering speech to the Mixers at halftime of Game Four, challenging his players to come out fighting or pack up for a deciding Game Five.
The Mixers took the cue from there, outscoring the Tropang Texters, 62-39, in the second half while riding on the shooting hands of Finals MVP James Yap and Mark Barroca en route to a title-clinching 100-91 victory.
Now Cone and the Mixers are one championship away from matching that San Miguel grand slam 25 years ago - and another treble Cone pulled off with his former Alaska team in 1996.
“My first year was (in the PBA coaching), and going against Norman, he was at his ultimate best winning the grand slam. So I had the ultimate respect for him, that’s what brings the memory of Philsports for me,” said the beaming San Mig coach.