Cone: First SEA Games gold 'up there' with 21 PBA titles
MANILA, Philippines – Tim Cone is a man of extremes.
He declines interviews almost every after defeat, admitting that he extremely hates losing, but feels like he could talk for hours about a win, dissecting the game like the basketball wizard that he is.
On Tuesday, December 10, after Gilas Pilipinas captured its 18th gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games, Cone took that enthusiasm to another level.
A zealous Cone politely told the moderator who was about to end his post-game press conference that he was open for a few more questions, obviously suggesting that he still had a lot more to say.
That was how over the moon Cone was as he marked his return to the national team with a gold medal – 21 years since settling for bronze in the 1998 Asian Games with the vaunted Centennial Team.
It was his first gold medal in his storied coaching career highlighted by 21 PBA crowns, two Grand Slams, and 3 Coach of the Year plums.
"You can't go wrong with a gold medal," Cone said. "I've won a few championships in the PBA and this ranks right up there, if not the top."
"Maybe if you have like 10 gold medals, like Mark Spitz, maybe that's something," he added, referring to the nine-time Olympic swimming champion. "But if you get one? That's incredibly special."
Everything just fell into place for Cone.
With Yeng Guiao resigning from his post following a winless campaign in the FIBA World Cup, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas was forced to hurriedly search for a new coach for the SEA Games.
Cone was asked to take over, and with a SEA Games gold medal within reach, he found the offer too irresistible to refuse.
"I've got bronze 20 years ago, which at that time I was disappointed for and now I look back and I am appreciative of that bronze."
"But I've always wanted the opportunity to come back and try to win the gold. And somehow the opportunity to coach here in the SEA Games is just too good to pass up," said the 61-year-old mentor.
Just like the Centennial Team, Cone built a team of PBA veterans to compensate for the limited time of preparation for the SEA Games.
This team was not short of dominant, winning all of its 5 games by an average of 44.6 points, including a 34-point romp of Thailand in the finals.
But more than the blowout wins or the precious hardware, Cone cherished the chance of being able to be around a bunch of "unselfish" players.
"They looked out for each other, they care for each other," Cone said. "What I like most about this group is no one tried to be the star."
"No one tried to outshine their teammates. Everybody worked together and they were just so unselfish," he added. "They're such wonderful gentlemen. Great players – great on and off the court."
"Everytime I look at that gold medal, I'm going to remember this whole experience. That's going to be the best part of it – not the winning, but the journey and the experience getting here." – Rappler.com