SEA Games: Gilas gold ‘ranks right up there’ in Cone’s long list of achievements

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 11 2019 01:53 AM

Tim Cone, winner of 21 titles and 2 Grand Slams in the PBA, considers his SEA Games gold medal one of his best achievements "if not the top." Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines—Tim Cone padded his already exceptional basketball resumé on Tuesday night, when he led Gilas Pilipinas to the gold medal in the 30th Southeast Asian Games.

Calling the shots for an all-pro team, Cone had Gilas Pilipinas playing like a well-oiled machine despite having just a couple of months to prepare for the SEA Games. They steamrolled their opponents, including the Rajko Toroman-coached Indonesia team, and the Tyler Lamb-powered Thailand.

Lamb scored 33 points in the gold medal game, but had little help as Gilas came away with a 115-81 triumph. It was the Philippines' 18th gold medal in SEA Games basketball, but a first for Cone.

"Twenty years ago, I was able to win a bronze," said Cone, referring to his stint as coach of the Philippine Centennial Team that placed third in the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok.

"But nothing compares to winning a gold," he added. "I'm going to look at that gold medal, and I'm going to remember all the time that I had here. It's been fantastic."

Asked where the SEA Games gold ranks among his list of accomplishments, Cone did not even hesitate to answer.

"You can't go wrong with a gold medal," said Cone, the winningest coach in PBA history with 21 titles, including two Grand Slams.

"My gosh, it's something you remember for a long time," he added. "Maybe if you have like, 10 gold medals like (American swimmer) Mark Spitz, so maybe that's something. But if you get one? That's incredibly special."

"I've won a few championships in the PBA, and this one ranks right up there, if not the top."

What makes the medal so special for Cone is the relationships he built with the players on the team, and the journey they took to reach the top of the podium. 

Cone had been tapped to coach the Philippine team for the SEA Games after the resignation of Yeng Guiao, and he had just a couple of months to put a squad together. He tapped six of his own players from Ginebra to form the core of the pool, and added some of the best players in the PBA.

An injury to Jayson Castro kept "The Blur" from playing in the SEA Games, and in response they added Kiefer Ravena, a veteran of four Southeast Asian Games. Roger Pogoy was ruled out due to injury just days before the tournament, paving the way for Greg Slaughter's inclusion.

Despite the short preparation time and a rash of injuries, Gilas still cruised through the tournament, as most expected. They were challenged by Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand, but only for a half. The team turned on the switch in the third quarter of every game, and wound up winning their matches by an average of 44.6 points.

"It's been an awesome experience," said Cone. "Every time I look at that gold medal, I'm gonna remember this whole experience. That's gonna be the best part of it. Not the winning, but the journey and the experience getting here."

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