Tim Cone was more than willing to field questions all night from reporters shortly after his B-Meg Llamados pulled off a classic 90-84 overtime win over Talk 'N Text to bag the PBA Commissioner's Cup crown Sunday night.
"I can stay here all night. I don't want to go back in there (the B-Meg locker room), because I might get wet," he said with a laugh, referring to the celebration that had just broken out among the Llamados and their supporters.
Celebrating a PBA title is a scene that the 53-year-old Cone has experienced more times than any other coach in PBA history, save for the legendary Baby Dalupan. By winning the Commissioner's Cup, Cone annexed his 14th league title, just one behind Dalupan's all-time record of 15.
'There's nothing like winning a championship. It's really, really something.'
It's his first title after leaving the Alaska Aces, the team he coached for 22 years and led to 13 championships, but the feeling never gets old. He has grander plans for his new team, and he has them thinking far into the future, where, if things go according to plan, many more titles await the young Llamados.
"This is just one small step," Cone said. "Winning one championship is really cool. There's nothing like winning a championship. It's really, really something.
"But what marks you as a great team is the ability to win multiple championships. James (Yap) and PJ (Simon) and Ping (Marc Pingris) and all these guys, they want to be a great team, they're gonna have to come back and really compete for the next championship. And that's the challenge that I'll put to these guys."
In Cone's mind, though, the biggest stumbling block to their grand plans is the very team they beat in that tough seven-game series. Right now, the Tropang Texters are where the Llamados want to be, as the dominant team of their era.
"I think with any team that is great, you emulate them," said Cone. "The Chicago Bulls, everyone wanted to be like Chicago. The LA Lakers, everyone wanted to be like the Lakers. Everyone wanted to have that kind of success. Back in the '90s, Alaska was dominating. Everyone wanted to have the same success as Alaska. So I think that follows.
"Talk 'N Text has certainly been the dominant team. Chot Reyes has certainly been the dominant coach. And I think he's incredibly deserving to be the national team coach. So yeah, we want to be like them. We want to have that same kind of success. We want to work and grow to that same kind of success that they have."
The Tropa have made it to the finals of the last five conferences, winning four. And Cone believes they aren't slowing down anytime soon.
"Their time isn't over yet. They lost tonight, a game they probably should have won, I have to admit. But they're still gonna be the best team going into the next conference. And until somebody knocks them off consistently, they are going to be the best team out there."
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Carrying over Alaska habits
After tasting success numerous times during his 22-year tenure with Alaska, it was but natural for Cone to try and bring over some keys to that success to B-Meg.
"When I was with Alaska, it was about, I'm a steward of the organization," he said. "I did it for the organization, I did it for the players. That's my goal, to do it for them, to help them achieve their goals. I feel the same way here. I think I said this to the team just a couple of games ago. It's one thing to win as an individual, it's a whole new experience and much more gratifying to win as a group, to share the winning. So I'm just real happy for the players and for the organization.
"I hope I can emulate a little bit of what I did with Alaska. That was my goal coming here, was to bring the things I learned at Alaska."
Cone's Alaska stint was best-known for the triangle offense he employed, but it wasn't easy to implement the system over at B-Meg.
"There was a lot of unfamiliarity," he admitted. "In fact, we had to abandon the triangle and much of what we normally run because they don't have a real comfort zone in terms of running it. And so in really stressful times, they're not going to trust it. So we had to do a lot of basic set plays, like we call the horns or zipper or things of that sort, and some specific set plays just so we could them in a comfort zone.
"But I think in the future, as we continue to learn the triangle, we'll be able to run it in a Game 7 and rely on it and trust it. But we're not there yet."
New team, new experience
His first championship with B-Meg will, of course, come with something a little extra, as San Miguel teams are known to reward their coaches and players handsomely for winning titles. It's something Cone will be experiencing for the first time, and he said he doesn't know what to expect.
"I am completely unfamiliar with that situation in this organization, so anything's gonna be new to me. If there is, there is. Great. I don't know anything about that. A whole new experience. I'm not even sure where we're going now to celebrate. If I was with Alaska I'd know exactly where we're going. I have no idea what the pattern of San Miguel is."
If things to go according to plan, Cone will get to know that pattern very well in the near-future.