MANILA, Philippines—Tim Cone has been the Philippine Basketball Association’s proverbial bar for coaching for quite some time now, so it’s only natural that he finds himself in a contest against someone he coached in the past.
But this Governors’ Cup championship series is shaping up differently.
Cone and his defending champion Barangay Ginebra take on TNT, which is now mentored by Jojo Lastimosa, one of his prized players at Alaska during the ’90s.
“Honestly, if we had not traded for Jojo, I can honestly say I would not be sitting here at this point right now. That’s kind of an impact he had on my career as a coach,” Cone said as he waxed sentimental during the Finals’ kick-off presser Monday at Novotel Manila.
“You get special players every once in a while. Throughout my career, I’ve had a few. Jojo was one of them,” he said. “Johnny (Abarrientos) was another. LA (Tenorio). Guys like that. Justin (Brownlee), Sean (Chambers)—they’ve been special players for me and they really propelled my career.”
Lastimosa was acquired by the Alaska franchise in a January 1991 deal involving Purefoods’ Elmer Cabahug. He went on to become one of the Milkmen’s poster boys, helping the club to nine titles, which included a rare Triple Crown sweep in 1996.
And for Cone, that was actually the origin story of his now legendary coaching career.
“Getting Jojo changed the culture of our team back then,” he said. “We were desperate for our first championship with Alaska as an organization and it wasn’t until we got Jojo that we were able to get there and actually win.”
“It was an organizational, total [cultural] changes when Jo came over. He’s always been the leader of that great team and the one that won the Grand Slam a few years later. Now he’s a leader of his team at this point,” he said.
So far, Lastimosa has been making a good account of himself in his first gig as a head coach. Calling the shots for TNT on an interim basis, he has steered the Tropang Giga to a 10-1 record and the No. 1 seed in this tournament.
And that somewhat worries Cone.
“My career started [with] Jojo. And hopefully, his career doesn’t start from me,” he said with a chuckle.
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