Tim Cone, Marc Pingris try to set emotions aside as Barangay Ginebra, Star face off
Tim Cone calls the shots for Ginebra in their opening assignment against his former team. Jerome Ascano

BARANGAY Ginebra starts a new era under Tim Cone, who faces his former team in Star in an early anticipated showdown on Sunday in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

Cone, who coached the Hotshots the last four years resulting in five titles including a Grand Slam season, tries to bring the same winning tradition to the Gin Kings, who are seeking to end a seven-year championship drought.

But the league’s most successful coach admitted having some strange feeling as he faces his former squad right in his first game with the Kings.

“It’s always tough to face your ex-players and it especially hard to face them in your first game,” Cone said in a text message on the eve of the 5:15 p.m. matchup. “But we’re all excited to get going.”

“It’s been a long break and it feels good to be back at it,” added the American mentor, who still has Joe Devance on his side after the veteran forward was shipped to the Gin Kings.

Hotshots forward Marc Pingris admitted it will somewhat be an emotionally filled encounter against his former coach, who he considers family, although he stressed it will just be another day in the office.

“Siguro may halo na rin (emosyon), pero kahit barkada ko man yan o best friend ko, pag dating sa laro, hindi ko ginagalang dahil ganun din ang gagawin nila sa akin,” the Hotshots star said. “Pero pag dating sa labas, daddy ko siya, kaibigan ko siya.”

“Nagpapasalamat kami sa ginawa niya sa team, pero kailangan talaga namin magtrabaho,” Pingris added. “Hindi pa naman dun nagtatapos yung career namin.”

Cone hopes to set his emotions aside as he handles a Gin Kings side that has tried to master the Triangle the last two months in their bid to finally live up to enormous expectations from their legions of fans.

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“Just like everyone else, I’m curious to see how our guys respond,” Cone said. “This is the first baby step of our journey together.”

The Hotshots’ opening-day tormentor, Rain or Shine, seeks a second straight win and the solo lead as it takes on Mahindra earlier at 3 o’clock.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos