MANILA, Philippines – Coach Tim Cone was grateful for the compliment paid by former Gilas coach Rajko Toroman last Monday, when the Serbian mentor said his Southeast Asian Games team was better than the squad that the Philippines sent to the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
For the multi-titled coach, however, any comparisons being made between the two Philippine teams are quite unfair.
Toroman told reporters on Monday, after Indonesia's loss to Gilas Pilipinas in the semifinal, that Cone's team "is better than the team in the World Cup." He pointed to their chemistry and selflessness as two major factors, along with the presence of Matthew Wright and Marcio Lassiter, both of whom missed the World Cup with injuries.
"Tactically, this team is much better. They have better chemistry, they have better size, they play for each other," said Toroman.
"That's high praise," Cone responded on Tuesday night, after he steered the Philippines to the gold medal with a 115-81 rout of Thailand.
Cone was quick to add that their situations are simply not comparable.
"You just cannot compare with the team that competed in the World Championship. The level of competition is completely different," he said.
"It's really about the level of competition," Cone pointed out. "Coach Yeng (Guiao) and Coach Chot (Reyes) are playing against the world, and we're not playing on that level."
"Of course, we're gonna look better. We're gonna play better because the competition isn't as great as Serbia or Italy," he added.
Guiao's team returned from the World Cup without a single victory, placing dead last in the 32-team field. They struggled to shoot from beyond the arc, and Andray Blatche struggled to duplicate his performances from the qualifiers in the world stage.
Yet Cone has nothing but praise and respect for Guiao and his squad, especially after he once again got to experience coaching the national team.
"I was telling someone that I'm here in the SEA Games, and there's a good chance I'm gonna win, and still, I'm a bundle of nerves, I got a bad stomach. I'm so nerbyoso," said Cone, who also coached the Centennial Team in 1998.
"I'm thinking, 'What about Yeng Guiao?' He's coaching against those magnificent teams in Serbia and Italy, and then Chot before him? I don't know how those guys go through that," he added.
"So to compare what they've done to what we've done is just not fair at all."
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