ON the night he surpassed legendary coach Virgilio `Baby’ Dalupan for the most championships won in PBA history, the one thing that stood out in Tim Cone's mind was the time the 'The Maestro' broke his heart in the only time their paths crossed in the Finals 24 years ago.
Only in his second season calling the shots for Alaska, the then 35-year-old Cone found himself in a coaching duel with the 67-year-old Dalupan who was the man at the helm of Purefoods during the 1990 Third Conference championship series.
The American mentor admitted he felt the Milk Kings had Dalupan’s Hotdogs on the ropes after going up, 2-0 in the best-of-five championship showdown.
But Cone said the next three games gave him a taste of what Dalupan’s coaching touch is all about.
“You gotta remember, I think this was underplayed, and I think this was just coincidental, but my first Finals appearance was Baby Dalupan’s last championship and, we’re in that championship, 2-0 (up) in the best-of-five,” recalled Cone just moments after steering San Mig to a 4-2 Philippine Cup Finals series victory over Rain or Shine on Wednesday night.
“And he swept my ass in three games and won that championship.”
The American mentor said Dalupan’s magical three-game turnaround en route to his record 15th league championship at his expense was one that “tore his heart out.”
“That was like it was my first time in the Finals. Alaska hasn’t won a championship yet, and we’re so sure we would win that thing,” Cone said.
“But he just tore my heart out and then maybe, he retired two conferences later after that. So that’s my claim to fame. I was able to coach in the finals against Baby and get beat,” he added.
“That’s the proudest thing, to coach against him and get beat.”
Cone may have been shamed nearly a quarter of a century ago in his one and only PBA title showdown against Dalupan, but since that championship heartbreak, the 56-year-old coach went on to achieve his own coaching greatness, becoming the most successful coach with a 16th title to his name.
Truth is, before joining San Mig at the start of the 2012 season, Cone already had a total of 13 titles with Alaska, including the 1996 Grand Slam.
He went on and win three more with the franchise, starting with the 2012 Commissioner’s Cup, followed by last season’s Governors Cup, and this year’s All-Filipino crown.
In all, San Mig now has won six All-Filipino championships, making the franchise the winningest team in terms of Philippine Cup titles won.
The franchise now has a total of 11 titles in all since joining the league in 1988 and won its first back-to-back titles this season.
“I’m surreal at this point. I’m in a daze right now,” said Cone of the success he and the franchise just achieved. “I’m having trouble sorting it all out.”