Tim Cone turns emotional as Ginebra takes on a Star team  that is 'very dear to my heart'
Tim Cone and Star celebrated a grand slam in 2014. Now they've crossed paths in the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals. Jerome Ascano

TIM Cone knows it’s hard to set aside emotions when he goes up against a team he describes as ‘very dear’ to him in the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals.

The 58-year-old coach braces for an intense best-of-seven duel between Barangay Ginebra and Star which gets going on Thursday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Ginebra coach will be battling the same franchise he steered to five league championships, including a grand slam in 2014, until his surprising move to the Kings’ camp before the start of the 2015-16 season.

“It’s tough,” said Cone of the rather strange scenario he’s had to face since the start of the playoffs. “That team is very dear to my heart. Very, very dear.”

[See Pingris says Lee has ably filled void as Star prepares to meet Ginebra without Yap]

In the quarterfinals, he also duked it out with the Alaska Aces, the team where Cone got his break as a coach in 1989, worked with for 22 years, and won a total of 13 championships.

The Kings, seeded seventh, overcame the No. 2 seed Aces’ twice-to-beat advantage to knock them out of the running for the all-Filipino title.

Up next are the Hotshots.

“That’s two teams that are very familiar with the style that we play,” said Cone of Alaska and Star.

“Tony dela Cruz gave me a hug after the (Alaska) game. And Sonny (Thoss) also gave me a hug. They’re still a big part of who I am,” he said of the two big men, who are the only ones remaining from the last Alaska team he coached.

“Now, I have to do that with Ping, Mark, Ian, Raffy, all those guys there.”

Even the Hotshots coaching staff are personnel who Cone had worked with during his four-year stint with the Purefoods franchise.

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“The coaching staff is still my staff. Jason, Johnny, Mon Jose. They’re all still there,” said Cone, adding Allein Maliksi and Justin Melton as among the Hotshots he also handled while still with the team.

“The only guy I can shun is Paul (Lee)  because I’ve never been with Paul,” he said smiling.

But at the end of the day, Cone knows he has a job to do for the Kings, nothing really personal against the Hotshots.

“Now it’s no-holds barred. Last man standing,” he added.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos