PUREFOODS Star coach Tim Cone said he was left “heartbroken” the moment he heard the news that Bong Hawkins, his former player during the grand slam days of Alaska, was not included in the list of the PBA’s '40 Greatest Players.'
Cone felt Hawkins could have easily made it to the list of the pro league’s greatest players as early as the 2000 when the PBA came out with its original 25 'Greatest' lineup.
“I’m really heartbroken that he (Hawkins) didn’t make it (to the greatest list). I feel he should be in the top 25,” Cone told Spin.ph on Thursday, describing the 6-foot-3 Hawkins as a “hugely cerebral player."
“He can beat you from the inside, or he can beat you from the outside,” added the 56-year-old two-time PBA grand slam coach of one of the cornerstones of Alaska's team of the nineties.
Hawkins, now 47, won a total of 10 PBA championships, including nine with Cone and the Alaska Aces.
Although Johnny Abarrientos and Jojo Lastimosa were the most recognizable stars during Alaska’s dominant run, Cone said one can’t simply overlook the impact Hawkins had to the Uytengsu-owned franchise.
“He won the grand slam with us. He was very much part of the run when we made it 12 Finals (appearances) in 13 conferences,” recalled Cone, author of Alaska’s “triple crown” during the 1996 season.
“I always said that Johnny was the most talented player in the team and Jojo as the leader, but Bong is the most irreplaceable player.”
Abarrientos and Lastimosa are part of both the '25 Greatest' and '40 Greatest' lists.
Nonetheless, Cone said he respects the decision of the nine-man selection committee, which included former senators and PBA legends Sonny Jaworski and Freddie Webb and sportswriters/ columnists Quinito Henson and Barry Pascua.
“It’s a tough selection process for the 40 greatest. Someone deserving always gets left off,” he added.
By the time Hawkins retired at the end of the 2006 season, he has compiled career-averages of 13.4 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists.
He began his PBA career with Tivoli/Presto, but spent his best years with Alaska, before joining Tanduay, Coca-Cola and returned to the Aces during the twilight of his career.