TIM Cone can't seem to hide his excitement as he brings his triangle offense to Barangay Ginebra, a team blessed with a talented roster and - more importantly - towering players like Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar who should be central to the new coach's time-tested offensive system.
“It’s a very, very talented lineup, you can’t have a Japeth, a Greg and Mark (Caguioa), LA (Tenorio) and not be talented," Cone, the most successful coach in PBA history with 18 championships, told Spin.ph on the day he was introduced as the new Ginebra coach. "You got a great core of players right there.”
There's no doubt that Cone is excited to see the 6-11 Slaughter and 6-9 Aguilar thrive in the offensive system that primarily revolves around big men. Tenorio, too, has a firm grasp of the triangle from his time at Alaska.
So where does that leave Caguioa?
'The Spark' has been the face of the Ginebra franchise for the past decade, but he didn't look thrilled when Cone's longtime understudy Jeff Cariaso brought the triangle to Ginebra last year. Caguioa in fact welcomed the return to the run-and-gun when Frankie Lim took over the team late last season.
Cone, however, insisted the former league MVP has a major role to play once Ginebra gets re-acquainted with Tex Winter's offensive system next season.
“Mark will play an important role. Of course, he’s still the star of the team. He’s the face of the franchise just like James Yap was (when I moved to Purefoods). I find him still very athletic,” Cone said.
“I think Mark is gonna be great in the triangle. He’ll gonna really enjoy himself. He’s play some positions he doesn’t know yet. And I am excited about putting him there,” he added.
But for that to happen, Cone said the Ginebra star, and all the players for that matter, will have to buy into the system.
“It’s gonna come down to, 'Will he share my vision to the team? So he’s gotta come in with an open mind and let us coach him,” said Cone, reiterating that the triangle is all about 'togetherness.'
“We’ll not gonna feature anybody. We’re gonna make sure everybody gets their touches. It’s all about togetherness, it’s about doing it together and not one guy going to be the star,” he said.
Cone has no doubt that the triangle will be ideal for this batch of Ginebra players.
“Yeah, coz the core pieces are there. You just have to build it around a little bit and again it’s the old have to get along with the young, the guards having to get along with the bigs. There’s gotta be a better match of chemistry in the team,” the two-time grand slam coach said.
“If you have run and gun (former system of Ginebra), most of the time your big men will run from freethrow line to freethrow line and you’ll not gonna get to take advantage of your bigs,” he added.
Cone shared his observation that Ginebra was looking good in the triangle towards the end of Cariaso's shortlived stint with the team.
“I thought at the end of Jeffrey’s tenure, Japeth was very good in the triangle, Greg was good and putting up good numbers, LA was playing with a lot of enthusiasm. I thought that they were starting to look very good,” he said. “But he just didn’t get a chance to get over the hump.”
If there is one thing that needs correcting, Cone said it is Ginebra's imbalanced lineup, hinting that the guard-heavy roster will eventually need tweaking.
But on when that would be, Cone isn't saying.
“That will dictate itself as we get along. Looking at the lineup, it’s not a balanced lineup. We have a lot of point guards and we only have two wings and one off guard. It’s kind of an unusual balance,” he said.
“Eventually we have to balance it out, whether it happens next week or two months from now, second conference or third conference or a year from now ... ” he added.
For now, Cone said he is in no hurry to make changes.
“I’ll have to see it at this point. It’s about building that foundation. I’m not gonna be in a hurry. If you try to do things in a hurry you make shortcuts, and if we make shortcuts, then we’ll be falling into the same traps that other coaches have had going against Ginebra,” he said.
“We’ll gonna do it from basic and move forward. I’ll try to be as quick as I can. I’ll tell the players to be quick and not in the hurry.” Cone said.