Eight years. Eight long, difficult years that Gin fans would simply love to forget. Eight years of misery, until that miracle worker, Tim Cone, was brought in to break that powerful jinx cast on the team.
To be perfectly honest, Tim was not supposed to win this PBA crown. Not after having to make major adjustments in the team’s system. Not after having to change his import at the start of the season. Not after his main man, Greg, was ‘slaughtered’ a few games after the season started. And not after having to make further adjustments after the injury.
Tim had weaved his winning ways with Alaska and later, with Purefoods using the tried and tested Triangle Offense, a system that relied heavily on a gifted big man providing a myriad of options at the low post. With management’s decision to hire Tim, the message conveyed was that it was time for a major system change. And that it was perhaps time for the ‘Fast and Furious’ to pass the baton of leadership to the younger generation led by Greg.
Looking back, the Gins have always been led by a guard tandem; the originals being the immensely popular Batman and Robin team of Bobby Jaworski and Francis Arnaiz. When they finally faded away, it was Jayjay Helterbrand and Marc Caguiao – the Fast and the Furious – who would inherit the Gin Kings’ never-say-die brand and the mantle of leadership in the team. However, with an 8-year winless streak, it seemed that the Gin brand of razzle-dazzle, never-say-die ball was slowly fading out as the Fast and the Furious started to age.
Thus, after 8 years of futility and frustration, Tim Cone was brought in. Tim is the PBA’s winningest coach. He is a stickler for order, and his system has never been as flashy but are nonetheless effective. The team’s persona would have to change with the coach. With Tim taking over the bench chores, it looked like Greg was being primed to be the face of the Gin Kings in the years to come.
And for good reason. With a 3-time MVP, Jun Mar Fajardo, dominating the PBA these past years, a looming marquee rivalry between the 2 behemoths from Cebu would be a stellar attraction for the fading PBA brand. Already, the rivalry was being compared to that which propelled interest in the NBA in the 60s, that between defensive stalwart, Bill Russell, and that scoring machine, Wilt Chamberlain.
But things were simply not to be. When Greg suffered a season-ending knee injury a few weeks back, everything seemed lost for the Kings. For how could the triangle work without the big man at the post?
Fortunately, Tim was able to adjust and reinvent himself in such a short period of time. Making slight adjustments to his triangle offense, Tim would devise a new system that combined his orderly approach with the old system that relied heavily on a strong guard corps. With his solid guard crew led by eventual MVP LA Tenorio and Sol Mercado, plus the silently effective import, Justin Brownlee, Tim would wave his magic wand and eke out win after win after win.
Thus was born a new system, still unnamed, but now a proud producer of champions. Tim Cone has a Midas Touch that turns dust into gold, that turns good teams into great ones. He did it 18 times earlier, annexing championship trophies and providing Grand Slam glory years for both Alaska and Purefoods. He will do it again. And again and again.
For if Cone can give the the Kings a crown despite the absence of their main man, imagine how the future will be for the Kings once Greg recovers and everyone becomes familiar with coach Tim’s system.
This thought should be a major cause for concern for the rest of the PBA teams. Gentlemen, good luck!
(Pics courtesy of solfiesta.com, tv5, rappler, slamonline, arvin lim, ginebra of the people, GMA network)