TIM Cone made no secret as to who the star or stars of the show will be when he takes over the coaching reins at Barangay Ginebra.
Unlike in the past when the Kings would rely on whoever has the hot hands, Cone was straight to the point in recognizing big men Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar as the focal point of the triangle offense which the champion coach would try to instill again at Ginebra in the new PBA season.
“Having Greg and Japeth there is very, very exciting. There is a great opportunity to get with them and try to help them grow. The triangle system is quartered inside and out, so you look inside before you play out, and that’s gonna go to the strength of Japeth and Greg,” stressed Cone.
The most successful coach in the 40-year history of Asia’s pioneering pro league admitted being a big man’s coach, and having not just one but ‘Twin Towers’ at his disposal is definitely a big edge the Kings should not put to waste.
“Two bigs who are going to be the strength of your team because of their age, uncommon size, and athleticism, so you really have to take advantage of them,” Cone said of the 6-11 Slaughter and the 6-foot-9 Aguilar.
Since Slaughter came on board as the top overall pick in the 2013 draft and teamed up with Aguilar, the farthest the Kings had gone was the semifinals of the Philippine Cup that same season when they lost to Star Hotshots – then handled by Cone – in the winner-take-all Game Seven which attracted the second biggest attendance in league history at 24,883.
Cone believes the Kings should really play to their strengths by going more to their two bigs, who he said will definitely thrive in the triangle.
“Greg and Japeth will enjoy over time playing under this kind of system and we’ll take advantage of their abilities,” said the 57-year-old American mentor.
“I think they can be a terrific 1-2 punch.”
Although Cone likened Japeth to former Star player Joe Devance - “but he won’t handle the ball like Joe” – the new Ginebra coach is obviously enamored with the untapped potential of Slaughter.
“Greg needs some time. It’s been difficult for him coz he’s been unstable in terms of what system he’s gonna run. He’s been like in four or five different systems in the last couple of years. Hopefully I can lend him some stability and he can really work his way on what we’re trying to do,” he said.
“He’s gonna have to learn what kind of defense we wanted to play, it’s not just gonna be about his numbers. It’s gonna be about how well he defends, how good a teammate he is, how good a passer he is in the triangle. Those things are part of his game that have to gonna grow along with his ability to score and rebound.”
But make no mistake about it, Cone is not leaving out Ginebra’s other star players such as resident superstars Mark Caguioa, LA Tenorio, JayJay Helterbrand, Sol Mercado, or Chris Ellis.
“You can’t dismiss the LAs and Mark Caguioas, they’re gonna get theirs, too. The whole idea is an equal opportunity in offense, the triangle allows us to play the tempo in which you became a good defensive team,” said Cone, who added it still needs a total team effort if the league’s most popular ballclub is to end its long title drought.
“As much as this is about Greg and how good Greg is gonna be, he’s got a lot of guys around him and he’s got to improve with them and understand the system, and ultimately they'll gonna have to play together. You can’t play together, you can’t win. That’s gonna be the challenge to all these guys.”