By REYNALD MAGALLON
To show his love and care to a country that has been too good to him, Ginebra head coach Tim Cone is taking over the coaching reins for Gilas Pilipinas on an interim basis for the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China later this month.
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas and the PBA made the announcement in a press conference at the PBA office on Thursday, Sept. 7, which came in the wake of the board meeting last Monday to discuss the formation the national team for the quadrennial meet.
Joining Cone at the sidelines are SMC sports director Alfrancis Chua and PBA commissioner Willie Marcial as Gilas team manager and alternate team manager respectively.
With Marcial and Chua in the press conference were SBP president Al Panlilio and PBA Chairman Ricky Vargas and vice chairman Bobby Rosales.
Cone’s head deputy at Ginebra Richard Del Rosario will also be joining the coaching staff along with long-time Gilas assistants Jong Uichico, Josh Reyes and former national team member LA Tenorio.
The winningest coach in the PBA isn’t new to the setup having also served as an interim to a Gilas team backed by PBA players in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games where the country won the gold.
“I’m just interim coach at this point. I think if you remember back in 2019, (Gilas) played the World Cup and then the South East Asian Games for coming up and they asked me to do it,” said Cone.
Cone’s return was also reminiscent of his first stint with the national team 25 years ago when he coached the Centennial Team in the 1998 Asian Games which he guided to a bronze medal finish – incidentally, also the last time the Filipino dribblers landed in the podium of the quadrennial meet.
He is taking over the coaching position left by former head coach Chot Reyes, who decided to finally ‘step aside’ at the end of Gilas’ campaign in the World Cup where it failed to claim the lone 2024 Paris Olympic spot for Asia after recording a 1-4 record in the tournament.
Cone remained tight-lipped as far as the players in the roster are concerned but revealed that he is not anymore forming a pool for the national team with only roughly three weeks left before the continental meet.
SBP said it is still in the middle of forming the entire team but some players from the World Cup lineup are expected to return for the Asiad.
June Mar Fajardo, Scottie Thompson, Japeth Aguilar, RR Pogoy along with reserves Chris Newsome and Calvin Oftana and naturalized player Justin Brownlee are expected to compose the final 12 who will begin training on Monday, Sept. 11.
SBP also added that it is working very hard to get the approval of the new lineup and coaches from the Hangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee.