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PBA: Cone blames format more than referees

SanMig's Coach Tim Cone post interview. Photo by Tony PionillaIs Barangay Ginebra San Miguel coach Tim Cone barking up the wrong tree?

And as such, has the Philippine Basketball Association suspended the wrong set of fellows?

Shifting liability for a critical non-call in the final eight seconds of the Kings’ overtime loss to Globalport in the PBA Philippine Cup knockout playoffs last Sunday, Cone practically exonerated the two referees axed for the rest of the conference for missing two key violations apparently committed by Batang Pier guard Stanley Pringle which effectively denied Ginebra a final possession.

Instead Cone pointed a finger at something else.

“In my humble opinion, I blame the format more than I blame any referee. I hope we do away with this single knockout games in the playoffs,” Cone told Spin.ph days after Globalport ousted Ginebra, 84-83, when Pringle used up most of the remaining eight seconds in OT to hang on to the ball.

That kind of format doesn’t reward the best team – just the team who had the better shooting night, or the better referee’s call, or the luckier shot down the stretch,” Cone said. “In a ‘best of’ series over a five or seven-game series, the best team will win out.”

Cone has won 18 championships over more than two decades and so when he speaks, it is best the PBA listens.
Problem is, the other coach who failed to get past the knockout stage of the playoffs – Jong Uichico of Talk ‘N Text, the one man who could add substance to Cone’s claims – has refused to lay the blame on anybody for their loss to Rain or Shine – not on the refs, not on the absence of forward Ranidel de Ocampo, not on the physicality of the Elasto Painters, and certainly not on the format.

“We were just outplayed,” Uichico said simply. Period. He then spoke of regrouping and reviewing where they went wrong.

“We’ll just go back to the drawing board and see what we did wrong. We never ran a streak, which means we’re not consistent. We need to reassess,” Uichico told PBA.ph.

Call it Jong’s way.

Following Cone’s “humble opinion”, however, the individuals accountable for the Kings’ loss, if they are not the referees who blew two ordinary calls and nothing more, are, without anybody saying so directly, those who approved the tournament format after it was presented to them – the PBA Board of Governors.

If the format is to be blamed, as Cone maintains, then the matter may be best addressed to chairman Robert Non of San Miguel Beer and his colleagues in the PBA board who have the power to approve, reject or order the revision of any format – with or without knockout games in the playoffs – as recommended to them by its crafters inside the Commissioner’s Office.

Once given the green light by the board, presumably after consulting with team owners and head coaches, then the format is implemented and made to run its course.

Should it turn out defective for whatever reason, then the league governors decide whether to change horses in mid-stream or do away with it completely.

Condemning the format, and indirectly its drafters and those who approved it in the first place, because one suffered a terrible loss is an argument that might not hold water because three other playoff teams went through the same process and two came out rewarded by the supposedly-flawed scheme.

The PBA acted with haste in the aftermath, reviewed the disputed play, determined a grave oversight was indeed committed, and imposed corresponding sanction on the erring parties.

That should have been the end of it. The verdict would have been best served if accepted as a validation of a golden opportunity denied the Kings.

Instead a finger was pointed elsewhere. Now the entire PBA board has been dragged into the matter for not having the foresight to correct an apparent glitch in the format before approving it for implementation.

Somebody is not bound to take this sitting down.

What should have been embers slowly dying may now be flames fanned back to life.