JEFFREY Cariaso more or less knows what to expect when his Ginebra team takes on Purefoods for the first time this season: sellout crowd, intense emotions, non-stop action.
He used to be on the other side of the fence, and, now that he's coaching Ginebra, expects fans to play up only his second head-to-head clash with longtime mentor Tim Cone.
Cariaso has just one message, though: 'It's not about us.'
"It's gonna always be a challenge, yet special going up against my mentor coach Tim. But it's not about us," Cariaso said on the eve of the keenly awaited 5:15 p.m. match at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
"It's about our teams and being prepared for battle. You can only assume it will be a very intense game. Emotions will be high. Araneta will be packed," Cariaso added.
But regardless of what Cariaso says, the focus would still be on the student versus mentor showdown and the triangle offense both coaches have embraced.
While Ginebra's triangle is still in its infancy, Cone has used the trademark offense to win an all-time high 18 champonships - some of them with Cariaso as one of his players - including the last four.
Cariaso's first-ever meeting with Cone also resulted in a 102-90 loss back when Purefoods was still carrying the San Mig Super Coffee brand in last season's Governors Cup.
Ginebra, however, is off to an encouraging start in the season-opening Philippine Cup with a 3-1 (win-loss) record as the Gin Kings look to finally end a drought that has now spanned six seasons.
In contrast, Purefoods has struggled to start the season, losing its first two games and needing to fight back from a double-digit deficit to win over GlobalPort, 81-75, on Halloween.
However, Purefoods has used to one-week break since its last outing to get James Yap healthy and put Marc Pingris and free-agent pick-up Don Allado in better shape.
Yap's return from a two-game absence due to a hamstring injury gives Purefoods a full complement of players to go against Ginebra, which has one of the deepest lineups on paper.
"We've had a week to get James and Ping re-acclimated into the lineup and to get Don into better game shape," said Cone.
"Hopefully, that will make a difference in the game. We know Ginebra is going to be hungry."