IT was not a statement game the Star Hotshots delivered against Barangay Ginebra and former coach Tim Cone following their 86-78 win Sunday night in the main game of the Smartbro-PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Veteran forward Marc Pingris was very clear on this, stressing be it Cone or any other man calling the shots for Ginebra, the bottom line for the Hotshots is to win every game.
“Wala naman kaming kailangang patunayan kay Coach Tim. Gusto lang naman namin talaga manalo,” said Pingris, dashing in his black long sleeves over maong pants, shortly after the first season meeting between the two rivals.
A crowd of 16,576 turned up at the Big Dome to see how the Hotshots will respond in their first meeting against Cone, the same man who steered the ballclub to five championships in three seasons including a grand slam two years ago, before leaving the franchise in the offseason to take the coaching job of Ginebra.
The Hotshots responded like an assassin ready to pounce on its prey, racing to a 44-13 lead early in the second period.
They settled for a 58-38 advantage at the break behind a hot 50 percent shooting from the floor.
Pingris though said Star’s fiery start had nothing to do with Cone.
“Kahit naman sinong coach pa ng Ginebra, gusto lang talaga namin ay manalo,” said the Gilas stalwart.
Pingris finished with six points, 13 rebounds, and five assists, while once more anchoring the Hotshots’ interior defense against Ginebra’s towering frontline of Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar.
He later said approached Cone when the game was over.
“I just told him, ‘I miss you coach.’ And ‘Thank you sa lahat.’ Sabi niya lang, ‘Good game’ and, ‘I’m very proud of you,’” said Pingris.
Despite dealing Cone a heartbreaking loss in his debut game with the league’s most popular ballclub, Pingris said he and the Hotshots still have high respect for the most accomplished coach in league history.
“Proud pa rin ako na naging coach ko siya. Masaya ako sa kanya na napunta siya sa Ginebra,” added the energetic Star power forward.