MARC Pingris always turns emotional every time he talks about former coach Tim Cone.
And the Star veteran was like that again on Tuesday night when asked what he and Cone talked about after he approached the Ginebra coach on the sidelines with Game Seven of the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals all but decided.
The 35-year-old disclosed expressing his gratitude to the multi-titled coach despite the two now belonging to opposite teams, and Cone having just dealt the punch that knocked off the Hotshots in the heated race for a berth in the finals.
“Sabi ko kay Coach Tim proud ako sa kanya. Nami-miss ko siya,” said Pingris, the last player to leave the Star dugout following the team’s 89-76 loss to Ginebra in the deciding game of their best-of-seven semis series at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“Nagpasalamat ako sa kanya dahil nag-iba rin yung laro ko dahil sa kanya. Nag-grow din ako. Yung confidence ko sa buhay nag-iba.”
Under Cone, the energetic forward blossomed to become one of three pillars of the Hotshots – along with James Yap and Peter June Simon – that won five championships in six finals appearances, including a grand slam in 2014.
The bond between coach and player became so deep that it was an open secret that Pingris was among those who had a hard time adjusting when Cone left Star for Ginebra.
At the start of the semis, the pride of Pozzorubio, Pangasinan admitted to SPIN.ph that he tried to play mind games with his former coach when he refused to approach or talk to him before, during, and after games.
Everything was back to normal when it was all over.
Cone can’t help but to feel sorry, too, for Ping and his former players.
“I feel bad for Ping especially because he played tremendously the whole way through. I know those guys intimately and I know how much they love to win,” said Cone after guiding the Kings to a second straight finals appearance.
Ping had an impressive all-around game of 17 points (8 of 13), eight rebounds, and six assists in a losing cause for the Hotshots in their first semifinal appearance in the post-Cone era.
“So it’s really tough to put those guys on the losing side,” continued Cone. “But got a new commitment, got to move forward."
The feeling is mutual for Pingris, who could only wish Cone the best in his battle with coach Leo Austria and the San Miguel Beermen for the all-Filipino championship kicking off on Friday.
“Sinabi ko rin sa kanya good luck sa finals,” said Ping. “Sana makuha nila.”