FROM the legendary Virgilio ‘Baby’ Dalupan to Norman Black, Robert Jaworski Sr., Chot Reyes down to Yeng Guiao, Tim Cone has certainly faced the best PBA coaches there are.
But when it comes to the player that stood out and gave him the fits in his 26-year coaching career in Asia’s first ever play-for-pay league, Cone has nothing in his mind other than Talk `N Text guard Jimmy Alapag.
Other than Alapag’s dagger three-pointer against South Korea that clinched for Gilas Pilipinas a finals berth in the 2013 Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship, Cone said his memories of the deadly point guard were all pretty ‘bad.’
“Except for that Korean game in the Fiba-Asia, it’s all been bad moments for me with Jimmy Alapag because Jimmy was the killer,” said Cone, paying the ultimate compliment to the 37-year-old playmaker who was named the 2014 Spin.ph Top Sportsman Of The Year during the formal awards rite held Monday night at the Sofitel hotel.
“There’s so many games, and I try not to remember like it was hitting the big shots or beat us this way or that way, and I had bad memories with Jimmy,” he said with a smile.
Like Alapag, Cone was also honored during the intimate gathering presented by Phoenix Fuel, having been named to the 2014 Top 10 Sports Heroes for leading Purefoods to a first-ever PBA grand slam.
At the same time, the PBA's most successful coach of all time admitted the newly-retired Talk ‘N Text guard is one player who can make the people around him better.
“He’s just a guy who made the people around him better. That’s always the best complement you can ever give to a player,” he added.
“You talk of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. You talk of Michael Jordan later in his career, and Jimmy, he made people around him better, and that’s what made him special.”
Here's a video of the Spin.ph Sportsman of the Year awards night:
Alapag retired with averages of 12.4 points, 5.8 assists, and 3.9 rebounds in a career that spanned 12 seasons.
The 5-foot-7 guard out of California State University, San Bernardino, also held a career-average 39-percent shooting from the three-point range.
Cone noted had Alapag played during the 90s, he would have easily helped the Centennial team which Cone handled during the 1998 Asian Games.
“We could have really used a shooter like him and leader like him, but to me, it’s not really about his skills but his heart because he’s a small guy that played big,” he said.