There was a lot of motivation for Barangay Ginebra San Miguel when it pulled off a 111-93 conquest of Bay Area in the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup.
But Kings coach Tim Cone stressed that the idea of winning over a decorated mentor in Brian Goorjian of the Dragons is already enough to fire them up in their blockbuster duel last Sunday at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
“For me personally, I have so many reasons to get motivated,” Cone said, noting that the Dragons blew into town like a hurricane as they beat all teams that blocked their way.
“They won four games here already and a couple of tough games as well as preseason game, including against the Korean team.”
“Just like what Justin (Brownlee) said, we’re not only representing Ginebra. We’re also representing the whole league. And in many ways, we’re representing the country.”
There’s no coach in the league as celebrated as Cone.
The 64-year-old American owns a record of 24 PBA titles, including a pair of grand slams with Alaska in 1996 and Magnolia in 2014.
He was the PBA Coach of the Year four times while leading the country to a bronze medal in the 1998 Asian Games and the gold medal in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.
But when Goorjian arrived, the glow of Cone’s coaching credentials somehow diminished.
The 69-year-old Australian, in fact, emerged as a six-time National Basketball League champion and Coach of the Year in a colorful coaching career that started in 1998.
He also served as assistant coach for the Guangdong Southern Tigers from 2015 to 2016 and Xinjiang Flying Tigers in 2018 to 2019 in the Chinese Basketball League.
But the biggest star in his resume was in the Tokyo Olympics when he led the Australian men’s basketball team plucked the bronze medal behind champion United States and Serbia.
Cone said winning over a very prominent mentor Goorjian and the Dragons was such a big deal as far as his career is concerned.
“For me personally, it was such an honor to coach against Brian Goorjian,” Cone said.
“I’ve been hearing his name for the past 30 years. I guess, for tonight, I got the bragging rights.”
Stopping the red-hot Dragons was such a major achievement for the Kings.
Bay Area, for one, looked unstoppable as early as the preseason, winning nine games over collegiate and professional teams, including Korean Basketball League club Changwon LG Sakers.
Entering the Commissioner’s Cup as a guest team, the Dragons already won their first four games against Blackwater (133-87), NorthPort (105-104), Phoenix (101-91) and Converge (106-100), thanks to the effort of former Philadelphia 76ers cager Myles Powell, who averaged 35.75 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.7 assists in their first four games.
Despite Andrew Nicholson replacing Powell as import, Bay Area still had the likes of Kobey Lam, Duncan Reid, Richard Scott and the 7-foot-5 Chuanxing Liu and are heavy favorites against the league’s crown darlings.
But the Kings came into the battle equipped.
Brownlee was at his best, firing 46 points and 12 rebounds while new recruit Jamie Malonzo delivered 17 points, six rebounds and a block.
Christian Standhardinger was also impressive, hitting a double-double performance of 11 points and 10 boards while Stanley Pringle added 10 points and reigning Most Valuable Player Scottie Thompson chipped in eight points and 11 boards for the Gin Kings, who outscored the Dragons, 35-18, in the third period to set the tone for the rout.
Brownlee admitted that their game plan was focused on flattening the Dragons.
“To be honest, I can’t remember. I think they beat us once, and if I’m not mistaken we beat them. I’m not sure. But it was a good game every time we played them, and he was a beast every time we played him,” said Brownlee, the former St. John’s University star who clashed with Nicholson’s Saint Bonaventure University in college.
“They were the top team in the league being 4-0. We just wanted to come out and play them hard, give them a good game, and try to focus on our defense.”
“Also, just represent the league and the Philippines. They’re a guest team here — they’re a great guest team, and we just wanted to try and represent our league and just try and come out and play hard.”