Chris Gavina earns praise from Ginebra's Tim Cone, describes Mahindra counterpart as 'special' 
“That coach over there, that kid, Gavina, he’s special,” Ginebra coach Tim Cone said of Mahindra counterpart Chris Gavina. Jerome Ascano

MAHINDRA may have lost to Barangay Ginebra, but coach Chris Gavina did enough to earn praise from the PBA’s most successful coach after their first head-to-head duel.

Ginebra mentor Tim Cone lauded his rookie counterpart for giving the Gin Kings all they could handle before surrendering a 93-86 decision in their Governors’ Cup encounter on Friday night.

“That coach over there, that kid, Gavina, he’s special,” Cone said. “He’s a really good coach. You see a lot of coaches come in to the league, but he’s like one of the best I’ve seen to step in and make a huge impact right away.  He coaches really well.”

Cone said Gavina, Mahindra's former strength and conditioning coach who has been thrust to the spotlight, used schemes that forced the Gin Kings to play outside their comfort zone.

“They really kept us unbalanced all-game long,” the American coach said. “I think the key is you got to be willing to play ugly against them because they’ll make you play ugly. And if you get frustrated, they’ll take advantage of you because they are very fundamentally sound team on both sides of the ball.”

Gavina’s unconventional style was evident when he opted to field an unlikely combination of unheralded players Raymond Aguilar, AJ Mandani, and rookie Bong Galanza – who played his first game as a pro, along with star guard LA Revilla and import James White when the Enforcer tried to make a comeback.

“Tonight, we won our game on talent and we got to be better than that,” Cone said. “We got to win with more than just talent. My hats off to Mahindra and coach Gavina.”

“I’m happy about the win, but not the game,” he added. “We needed to be more disciplined, we needed to play with better chemistry, we needed to move the ball better, and we needed to execute better. But a lot of it was due to the schemes that Mahindra had and they used it against us.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos