MORE than lapses in officiating, Tim Cone is bummed by the current format of the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup, saying it should be re-examined in light of the early exit suffered by Barangay Ginebra in the playoffs.
As early as the eliminations, Cone has been vocal about his displeasure over the set-up which he said is unfair especially to teams which finished in the top six heading into the quarterfinals, where the knockout format took effect.
The 57-year-old Ginebra coach reiterated the call after the fourth-seeded Kings were ousted by No. 5 seed GlobalPort in a knockout game that ended in controversy after game officials failed to call a five-second violation and stepping infraction on Stanley Pringle in the waning seconds of overtime.
The Batang Pier won, 84-83.
“In my humble opinion, I blame the format more than I blame any referee. I hope we do away with this format in the future,” said Cone, finally breaking his silence two days after the Kings came short of making the semifinals again.
Referees Rommel Gruta and Edward Aquino were banned for the rest of the conference for the Pringle non-call. Gruta was the official closest to the action when Pringle hugged the ball too long while trying to evade the double-team of Sol Mercado and Greg Slaughter, while Aquino served as crew chief and was in the position to make a stepping violation.
But unlike Sunday when he stormed to the officials table to plead his case, Cone spared the referees of his wrath this time.
“I don’t take any delight in having them suspended. It’s a tough job and it was a tough game to officiate with the big crowd and the implications of the game results,” said Cone.
“In my career, I’ve been on both sides of game-deciding calls. Game-deciding calls are always tough to swallow.”
And that brings Cone's attention - and anger - back to the tournament format.
“Mostly, I just wish we didn’t have single knockout games in the playoffs. That kind of format doesn’t reward the best team – just the team who had the better shooting night, or the better referee’s call, or the luckier shot down the stretch,” said the league’s winningest coach.
“In a ‘best of’ series over a five or seven-game series , the best team will win out."