The Philippine Men’s National Basketball Team, Gilas Pilipinas, has not had the best year in recent memory this 2019. While it managed to get into the FIBA Basketball World Cup in China, its campaign was riddle with bad luck, facing against high-tier national teams and falling to mid-tier opponents as well. It also burned through two coaches in the process. Chot Reyes was suspended during the qualification phase due to the court brawl between Gilas and Australia. His replacement, Yeng Guiao, held himself responsible for the squad placing last in the tournament and retired in the aftermath. Another coach must now step up for Gilas.
And that coach, according to ABS-CBN News, will be Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) veteran Tim Cone. The announcement by President Al Panilio of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) on Monday, September 23, comes as Gilas Pilipinas must now rally after its FIBA World Cup humiliation to compete in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, which will be held in the Philippines. In his statement, Panlilio remarks that he has communicated with Cone about coaching Gilas since Saturday, but Cone asked to finish his then-ongoing PBA game and speak with his family first. He later confirmed.
In a way, the choice of Tim Cone to pick up Gilas Pilipinas after its epic fall was both inspired and sensible. Statistically speaking, he is the most successful PBA coach in the entire history of the league. Since he began in 1989 he has led PBA teams to 21 championship titles, including a couple Grand Slams (All-Filipino, Commissioner’s and Governor’s Cup in a single season). While most iconic as coach for the Alaska franchise (1989-2011), he has also led team Purefoods (2011-15), and then the Barangay Ginebra at the very latest (2015 to present).
With his winning pedigree Tim Cone is secured in both reputation with the Filipino basketball fandom and in coaching skills. This is doubly necessary considering that Gilas Pilipinas needs to revamp its roster, and then play long enough with the new members to form cohesively, all in time for the opening of this year’s Southeast Asian Games on November 30. Thankfully, both the PBA and Ginebra franchise-holder San Miguel Corporation are aware of what is at stake and have given Cone leave from his PBA squad via SMC President Ramon Ang and sports director Alfrancis Chua. Perhaps they agreed because Cone’s coaching tenure is only for the SEA Games according to SBP chief Al Panlilio.
While Cone will discuss the Gilas team roster and coaching staff with the SBP soon, the 2023 FIBA World Cup, again with the Philippines (and Japan, and Indonesia) is far enough that preparations for that can wait for a while.
Image courtesy of CNN Philippines