PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Seasoned coach Tim Cone claimed that winning the men’s basketball title in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games is sweeter than what he achieved in 2019.
After leading Gilas Pilipinas to the title when the country hosted the Games in 2019, Cone is thankful for the opportunity of being part of the squad that was tasked to reclaim the gold medal it lost in the Hanoi edition of the meet last year.
He said the achievement of the current team is truly special as it overcame great odds just to bring back the glory and reclaim the gold medal that is considered as the most important piece of hardware for basketball-crazy Filipinos.
“The 2019 when we won the gold in the Southeast Asian Games, that was great,” Cone, the winningest mentor in the Philippine Basketball Association, said in an interview.
“But this one is sweeter. The harder it is, the sweeter it is. The competition was so much harder than this time around. This one in 2023 is a lot sweeter than the one in 2019.”
Cone stressed that he is keeping his fingers crossed, hoping that the Filipinos will carry the momentum until they host the FIBA Basketball World Cup from 25 August to 10 September.
‘The 2019 when we won the gold in the Southeast Asian Games, that was great.’
“I hope it continues all the way to the World Cup and beyond,” Cone said.
“But we have a tough road ahead of us with the World Cup coming up. A lot of pressure because it’s at home. We really want to do well. We just want to get the guys that we can get — from Kai Sotto to Jordan Clarkson and hopefully, June Mar (Fajardo) and Japeth (Aguilar). We need them all to help us out. We won a heartbeat and try to succeed in the World Cup.”
Cone has been doing a tremendous job backing up Gilas coach Chot Reyes.
In fact, their partnership goes way, way back as Reyes served as Cone’s deputy when he won a title with Alaska in 1991 before the former got recruited to coach Purefoods in the Philippine Basketball Association.
Cone eventually tapped Reyes to help him in the Centennial Team that saw action in the 1998 Jones Cup and Asian Games in Bangkok.
Now, it was Reyes who is calling the shots with Cone as his chief deputy.
“I’m just here with Chot, just like when Chot did to me in 1998 and he was there to support me any way he could,” Cone, now the winningest mentor in PBA history, said.
“He did a great job doing that. I really, really loved him as an assistant coach. Now, the roles were reversed. Now, I’m trying to do anything I can to support him and he’s the man, responsible for this gold.”