TIM Cone’s love affair with Barangay Ginebra officially begins on Monday.
The most accomplished coach in PBA history conducts his first official practice with the league’s most popular ballclub a month since taking over the reins of the talent-laden franchise that has gone without a championship for eight seasons.
And Cone admits he can’t wait to finally have his hands on the same team he once considered as a chief rival.
“Everybody seems on board. It’s like getting on a ship and taking off tomorrow. We’re all prepared,” said Cone at the end of the PBA Gatorade Rookie Draft on Sunday at Robinson’s Place in Manila.
“I’ve had conversations with some of the players already and set the direction of where we want to go with them.”
Cone earlier deferred holding Ginebra’s first official practice of the off-season as some of the players have yet to return from their vacations abroad.
But with the draft over, the 57-year-old mentor said the grind begins for the Kings, who Cone is looking to steer to their first championship since the 2008 Fiesta Conference.
“From here, it’s straight up. We’ll be going every day, work hard, and try to learn the things that I try to teach,” he said.
With the exception of first round pick Scottie Thompson, the other rookies who the Kings picked in the draft namely, Aljon Mariano and Denice Villamor, are going to join the team in training.
“He (Thompson) will be in the NCAA. So we’re gonna miss him for the next month or so,” said Cone of the do-it-all Perpetual Help stalwart, who was the team's first pick at No. 5 overall.
As for the two, Cone believes Mariano and Villamor could be good role players for the Kings should they manage to crack the team’s rotation.
“Aljon and Denice will be fighting for a slot. They got a really good shot of making our team, we have some open slots, we think. And we’re looking for wings, guys that can be versatile and those two guys are very versatile,” he said of the team’s second and third round picks, respectively.