It couldn’t have been more official than this.
Multi-titled tactician Tim Cone was formally introduced as head coach of Barangay Ginebra on Thursday at the San Miguel Corporation headquarters.
While SMC President Ramon Ang had already gone on the record twice to confirm his move from the Star Hotshots to Ginebra, some fans still held out hope that there would be a last-minute change of heart.
The 18-time champion coach, who won five titles with the Star Hotshots, including most recently a string of four titles from the 2013 Governors’ Cup to the 2014 Governors’ Cup, sat next to his protege, Jason Webb, with the presidents of Ginebra and Purefoods flanking them. With Cone headed to Ginebra, it was Webb who was named his successor with the Star Hotshots.
Webb says it’s been an incredible journey. “16 months ago I was there,” he said pointing to the media. “But when Tim Cone gives you a call, you say ‘when,'” referring to his hiring as an assistant.
Cone, for his part, began by saying “It’s a difficult time to leave. I love my [Star Hotshots] players. That was the hardest part [leaving them].” Nevertheless, he said he was looking forward to the challenge of getting a Ginebra their first trophy since 2008, though he also wanted to make sure to manage expectations.
“It’s going to come down to ‘can I get the players to buy into what we want to do…buy in defensively.'”
While he expressed excitement over the young big man duo of Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar, he also said that his pet system, the triangle offense, was an “equal-opportunity offense” so that one couldn’t “dismiss the LA’s [Tenorio] and Mark Caguioa’s.”
The roster Cone inherits is an “unbalanced” one, making the “security agency” comparison with its abundance of point guards. But Cone dismissed sweeping changes or lopsided trades that would land him any of his former players. “The organization [SMC] wants all three teams on top. They’re [Star Hotshots] not just going to give me players.”
For his part, Webb said the Hotshots would move away from the triangle, saying, “When I come in, wherever I’m going to do is true to me. More than likely were not going to run the triangle…but we will use some elements,” citing in particular the spacing the scheme provides.
The two also shed a little light on the assistant coach situation, with Cone saying he would be taking with him his top assistant Richard Del Rosario, while Webb retains the services of Johnny Abarrientos and Mon Jose. At Ginebra, Cone would be reunited with another former assistant, Olsen Racela. Webb is also expected to add at least one more assistant to his bench.
Looking ahead, Cone also admitted that he might have to find new imports, moving on familiar faces Denzel Bowles and Marqus Blakely.
It is an amazing legacy Cone is part of, as he pointed out that he goes from following in the shoes of Baby Dalupan to the shoes of Sonny Jaworski, and with it comes a lot of pressure, especially from the rabid Ginebra fanbase. Webb for his part, said that he wanted to be different from “the Tim Floyds, the Rudy Tomjanovich’s, the Mike Brown’s, the guys that came after Phil Jackson.
“The landscape is going to be different, a year away from the Grand Slam. I’m gonna try to be the best possible coach for the current scenario,” he said. Webb’s promotion also makes him part of the first father-son duo to coach in the Association, with his dad Freddie, but he cited the need to be successful first and foremost.
For many seasons, Cone has been battling Ginebra and its crowd, and now gets the opportunity to tap into that “sixth man.” Well aware of the pressure that comes with the job, he said that it is his job to absorb all of it, and deflect it from the players. “We’re going to be quick but we’re not going to be in a hurry,” preaching the need to build the team the right way. He said he hopes fans will see the individual skills of players getting better first, which will in turn benefit the entire squad.
At the end of the event, Cone shared a symbolic fist-bump with Ginebra president Rey Marquez. “I hope we give you some exciting stories,” Cone added with a smile. “Hopefully not more coaching changes!”