WITH a record 18 championships and an unprecedented two grand slams under his belt, Tim Cone no doubt has coached some of the best players in the PBA.
But Cone did not hide the fact that James Yap is one of his favorites.
“I got lot of favorites, but yeah, James of course is one of my favorites,” said the coach who has handled the career of PBA legends Johnny Abarrientos, Jojo Lastimosa, Kenneth Duremdes, Bong Hawkins, Poch Juinio and Willie Miller, among others.
“James comes through more than anybody else (when the game demands it). That’s what makes him special, the ability not to get too high or too low,” added Cone.
“I had little bit of experience in Jojo Lastimosa in his career, but James is on another level.”
Asked what makes James stand out from the rest of great players he has handled, Cone said it was the level of calmness he has during stretches when the pressure is at its highest.
“While other players are doing something else, you would look over at James and he would sit down quietly. He understands the moment, he understands the calmness that it takes,” said Cone.
“Nothing fazes him and that makes him special, that’s why he steps up in big games. He plays at a level of calmness that I have never seen in a player before,” added the legendary coach.
“The calmness he exudes I think really takes him over the top.”
Asked if Yap is one of the best ever to have played in the league, Cone said he absolutely believes so.
“For sure (he is one of the best). He is a two-time MVP. I was a little disappointed he didn’t win an (individual) award this year,” said Cone of his player who he said battled through "a couple of injuries and battled through the personal stuff."
“The good news was he got it all straightened out and he was the big guy in this last conference for us… playing big games at big moments… and that was we expected from him,” said Cone.
“We should give him an immense amount of credit for battling through all that and battling through the personal stuff and staying and keeping his faith in the team and to me and continue to play,” added the Hall of Fame-bound coach.
And was he surprised when Yap again carried the team to in Game Five? Cone shook his head.
“No, it’s becoming pretty natural. It’s becoming expected," Cone said of Yap, who averaged 16.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists to win the Finals MVP award. “James is one of my special guys."
Here's a video of full interview with Tim Cone: