WHILE the players wage war on the court, the coaches are set to engage in a chess match as Star and Ginebra collide one last time on Tuesday night for the right to face San Miguel Beer in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals.
And there’s no doubt that Tim Cone has the advantage over Chito Victolero when the Gin Kings and Hotshots face off at 7 p.m. in Game Seven of their semifinal matchup.
The Gin Kings coach is the league’s winningest, with 19 championships under his belt, including two Grand Slams, while his young Hotshots counterpart can boast of his current feat of leading his team to the semifinals as his best achievement so far.
According to numbers dug up by chief statistician Fidel Mangonon III, Cone is set to extend his record to coaching in a 15th Game Seven – seven more games than his closest pursuer. The three-time Coach of the Year also has the most wins in this situation with eight as no other coach has more than four.
But the 59-year-old Cone played down his advantage over Victolero, 41, insisting it’s the players who will decide the match.
“No (advantage),” Cone insisted. “Game Sevens are Game Sevens. I don't think there's much coaching that goes on in Game Sevens. Game Seven is always a players' game, always coming down to who wants it more.”
“It sounds trite and cliché, but it's an absolute truth – who wants it more,” he added.
And the Gin Kings, the reigning Governors’ Cup champions, have always thrived under these circumstances, and it’s no different on Tuesday night when they play their fourth do-or-die game this conference.
“Our guys have shown great resilience and resolve the whole conference, in my opinion, coming from the last championship,” Cone said. “So many times, we could have quit and said, no mas. But we just find a way to keep battling, and you gotta really believe in the leadership – LA (Tenorio), Jay (Helterbrand) and Mark (Caguioa), and Joe (Devance).”