TIM Cone has long been a student of the game that he certainly knows his basketball – especially the Philippine Basketball Association side.
The Barangay Ginebra coach still vividly remembers the first time he coached Star three years ago in the playoffs which ended up as a major disaster when the fancied Hotshots lost twice in a row to the Powerade Tigers in their quarterfinal match up.
“My first conference with Purefoods, we have twice to beat. No. 1 vs. No. 8, and we got knocked out,” said Cone about one of the most stunning upsets in PBA playoffs history which saw the Tigers ride the scorching hot hands of top gunner Gary David to bring down James Yap and Co.
“I hope history doesn’t repeat itself,” added the multi-titled mentor.
Fast forward to this year’s edition of the Philippine Cup playoffs, and Cone – now calling the shots for the Kings – found himself again enjoying the same privilege he had with the Hotshots before, but up against a very dangerous team he knows from head to foot and now handled by his one-time apprentice Jason Webb.
Star beat Ginebra in the two teams' only meeting in the all-Filipino conference. The Hotshots and Kings battle each other in the main game of the playoffs on Christmas Day.
And Cone is aware, too, if there’s one team capable of pulling off a surprise in the playoffs, it’s the Hotshots, who still have the core of veterans Yap, Marc Pingris, PJ Simon, and Marc Barroca to lean on – the very same players responsible for giving Cone and the franchise a grand slam in 2014.
“Those Purefoods players obviously know how to play in the playoffs, they know how to get themselves ready for the playoffs,” noted Cone. “Of all the teams out there, I think they’re the toughest teams because they are veterans, and they know how to play and they can put a couple of good games together.”
While he still favors being the team that carries a twice to beat edge, the league’s most successful coach reminded everybody that such an advantage also has its misgivings.
“No doubt twice to beat is an advantage, but if you do lose that first game, there’s a lot of pressure to win the second one,” said Cone. “Hopefully I can be a little smarter and be a warning for our players not to take things for granted."
Or else, lightning could strike twice again for Cone.