FROM the time he left Alaska to join San Mig Coffee (formerly B-Meg Llamados) last season, Tim Cone admits he has kept an eye on his old team.
And he obviously likes what he is seeing.
“Obviously, from a distance I’ve followed them (Aces)...see how they do," said Cone, who coached Alaska for 22 seasons and led the team to 13 championships including a grand slam in 1996.
From where he was, Cone saw the Aces struggle in their first season without him before turning it around this season under his former understudy Luigi Trillo.
The longtime Alaska coach also saw Trillo retain the triangle offense that had worked so well for Cone during his time with the Aces, but add bits and pieces and turn it into his own.
Trillo's work got the thumbs-up from the No. 1 proponent of Tex Winter's offense in the country.
"I’m always interested in what Luigi is doing," Cone said, "and I’ve been really impressed by the way they have taken the triangle (offense), how Luigi and his staff have taken the triangle and added a whole bunch of stuff to it, molded it, and made it their way.”
This Alaska team has won 12 of 15 games in the PBA Commissioner's Cup alone - which was already more than the 11 games the Uytengsu franchise won all of last season under Joel Banal and Trillo.
And this Alaska team now stands as the biggest threat to Cone and San Mig's title-retention bid in the tournament, never mind if the Aces are still 0-8 (win-loss) against their former coach.
“Obviously, it (Trillo's triangle offense) has worked for them. They are 12-3 this conference. They are playing great basketball and they are really, really tough to beat,” Cone said.
Alaska and San Mig begin their best-of-five semis on Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.