JONG Uichico dismissed the notion that he 'outcoached' Tim Cone during the TNT Katropa-Barangay Ginebra showdown at the end of the PBA Governors Cup eliminations in Sunday.
The soft-spoken mentor deflected the credit after the 104-92 win fashioned out by TNT in Binan, Laguna that clinched for the Texters the No. 1 seed in the playoffs of the season-ending conference.
Uichico gave the credit to the players following the team’s 10th win in 11 outings as he tried to take away the spotlight from his coaching duel with Cone, his longtime rival and the most accomplished coach in the 41-year history of the pro league.
“No,” was his curt reply when asked about having won his mind game with Cone. “It’s just that the players came out to play today and win.”
Uichico, however, clearly pushed all the right buttons during the game, perfectly shuffling his rotation like a deck of cards especially in the third period when the Texters began to pull away and take control.
He also made the right calls when the Kings made one final bid to turn the game around in the homestretch.
Uichico opted to give veteran forward Kelly Williams extended minutes instead of going to rookie Mo Tautuaa, and the former league MVP provided the hustle and intimidating presence inside the paint against Ginebra big men Japeth Aguilar and Joe Devance.
Williams finished with only four points but had six boards as the Texters outrebounded the Kings, 58-52.
He also gave rookie guard Kris Rosales some playing minutes to lessen the load on star Jayson Castro, who was given different looks by Cone after alternating LA Tenorio, Sol Mercado, and rookie Scottie Thompson on him.
But Uichico said the move was not part of the Texters’ game plan as it was meant to giving his starting unit a brief rest.
“Siyempre, we tried to get them fresh (for the stretch), but it’s not really the game plan 'yung pagpapalit ng tao,” he said.
Uichico likewise dismissed the significance of the game, watched by no less than TNT Katropa owner Manny V. Pangilinan from courtside of the Alonte Sports Arena.
“It’s just placing lang naman whether you’re 1, 2, or 3 basta nasa Top 4 ka,” he said. “Then just hope for the best and try to maintain your momentum.”
The top seed now awaits the winner of the Rain or Shine-Phoenix playoff for the eighth and last quarterfinals berth. The Texters though, will enjoy a twice-to-beat edge in the playoffs.