THE arrival of Tim Cone at Barangay Ginebra totally closes the historic chapter of the legendary Robert Jaworski and his noted run-and-gun system that has been the trademark of the PBA’s most popular ballclub.
Former players who suited up for the iconic Living Legend of Philippine basketball believe a new era is about to begin for the powerhouse but underachieving franchise with Cone expected to implement his pet triangle offense for the Kings in the coming season.
Former Ginebra forward Jayvee Gayoso didn't mince any words in saying the present pool of Ginebra players have yet to really live up to the team’s ‘never say die’ spirit.
“Here is the big thing that I saw is totally different. Sa panahon namin we never wore shirts na nakalagay, ‘never say die,' because hindi kami nag-imbento nun, binigay sa amin 'yun. Dahil nakikita sa mga aksyon namin, na di kami susuko. Laban till the end,” said Gayoso, who played for Ginebra in the 90s.
“But the recent Ginebra, they want to show the world they are never say die, but they always die. They just acquired it (never say die theme), it was not given to them. You cannot acquire something of that magnitude, you have to work for it,” he added.
“It’s not about showboating, it’s about showing. Action speaks louder than words.”
Now a sports director for a university in Batangas City, the former shooting guard out of Ateneo disclosed that he once volunteered to help Ginebra re-instill the never say die spirit following a meeting with team governor Alfrancis Chua at a time when the Kings were changing coaches one after the other.
“That was the only time I wanted to get involved sana. I really wanted to come down to Manila to help out Ginebra. If there is one player who can share what occurred in the past about the system of Jaworski, about the true Ginebra, I think it’s me. Kasi ako ang pinakamatagal na nakasama niya eh,” said Gayoso, who played for the Kings from 1991 to 1999.
“Up to now, I still hope that someone gives me a chance to be with them (Ginebra team) and talk basketball, true never-say-die basketball,” he stressed.
Gayoso bared that close to two decades after he left the franchise, fans are still asking him about the current woes of the team that has gone title-less for the last seven years.
And he thinks one of the reasons why SMC management, in particular president and CEO Ramon S. Ang, brought Cone to Ginebra is to re-educate the team on the principles of winning.
“Tingin ko kaya dinala na si Tim Cone dyan is to address that problem. Tim Cone knows how to win eh. And he hates losing, so maybe ...” he said, while insisting he never imagined Cone will be at the helm of Ginebra after battling the legendary coach in numerous epic games in the past when the American mentor was still with Alaska.
Former Rookie of the Year and veteran big man Marlou Aquino believes Ginebra is now turning a new leaf in its storied franchise and that the Jaworski-era of the team is over.
“Panibagong talata, panibagong image na 'yan ng Ginebra. Sana kung mabago nga, manalo naman, kasi nakakalungkot rin na hindi na yan ‘yung same team na nakasanayan natin sa Ginebra,” said the 6-foot-9 center, anchor of the last Jaworski-mentored Ginebra team that won a championship (1997 Commissioner’s Cup).
“Magbabago na talaga ang Ginebra. Kasi si coach Tim, hindi siya ganun sa pisikal na laro. 'Yun ang Ginebra eh. 'Yung lumang Ginebra, kaya minahal ng tao, kasi ganun ang laro ng mga pangkaraniwang Pilipino, mga istilo na makikita mo sa mga basketball court sa kanto,” said Aquino.
The Adamson alumna even went to the extent of anointing Rain or Shine as the team that exemplifies the old Ginebra philosophy.
“Ang style kasi ng Ginebra dati, napunta sa Rain or Shine eh. Nawala 'yung tatlong bagay na dala-dala ng Ginebra noon - matapang ang players, nakikipagpalitan ng mukha, ratratan ang laro,” said Aquino.
Gayoso and Aquino, however, hopes Cone’s transfer will finally signal the end of Ginebra’s championship drought.
“Ilang teams na pinag-champion niya (Cone). Ilang teams na pinag-grand slam niya. Sana mabago naman ang pananaw ng mga players nun,” Aquino said.
Gayoso added: “For the past years, I have been a Tim Cone supporter, no joke. Ginebra has been different since Jaworski left the team. But I have high belief that coach Tim can change the plight of Ginebra. He has his credentials.”