Rain or Shine tests Star's mettle in lone opening game of PBA 41st season
Rookie coach Jason Webb will be put in the spotlight right away as Star faces Rain or Shine in the lone opening game when the PBA kicks off its 41st season on Oct. 18. Jaime Campos

MULTI-titled coach Tim Cone’s highly-awaited debut for Ginebra will have to wait for a while.

Instead, Cone’s protégé Jason Webb will have much of the spotlight when the 41st season of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) formally opens shop on Oct. 18 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Webb makes his debut as coach of Star Hotshots, who battle the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in the lone opening game of the Philippine Cup.

Game time is set at 5:15 p.m. following the elaborate opening ceremonies kicking off the new season at 3 p.m.

The PBA Commissioner’s Office released the entire schedule of the first round elimination on Friday.

Cone and the highly-popular Kings won’t play their first official game together until Oct. 21 at the Mall of Asia Arena when they take on the Meralco Bolts in the 7 p.m. main game, just after the Barako Bull-Mahindra tussle at 5 p.m.

The most accomplished coach in PBA history was moved from Star to Ginebra by management during the off season in a bid to turn the fortunes around of the underachieving Kings, who haven’t won a title since the 2008 Fiesta Conference.

While the transfer of Cone generated excitement within Ginebra, it remains to be seen how the league’s most popular ballclub will thrive under the American coach’s fabled Triangle Offense.

The departure of Cone at Star paved the way for Webb – one of Cone’s former deputies – to assume the coaching job of a Hotshots side that remains very much a contender with the presence of the veteran trio of Peter June Simon, Gilas Pilipinas team mainstay Marc Pingris, and two-time MVP James Yap.

Incidentally, Webb and Cone cross paths a week after the opener as Ginebra and Star clash on Oct. 25 also at the Big Dome, following the match between Rain or Shine and Mahindra.

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Top picks Moala Tautuaa and Troy Rosario make their pro debuts on Oct. 23 as Talk ‘N Text meets Alaska at prime time, with NLEX and Blackwater taking on each other in the first game set at 5 p.m.

Defending champion San Miguel and Globalport will be the last two teams to see action when they duel in the season’s first road game to be held in Davao City.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos