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Cone: LA wasn’t our target

LA Tenorio wasn’t part of Tim Cone’s initial plan when he was still coaching Alaska in the Philippine Basketball Association.

But in a stroke of luck, Cone landed the heady playmaker from Ateneo de Manila University, sparking a relationship that led to a beautiful relationship that gave them multiple PBA titles and a couple of gold medals in the international arena.

In a conversation with Daily Tribune, Cone admitted that they were eyeing Tenorio’s college teammate, Larry Fonacier, in a trade that will send Mike Cortez and first-round pick Ken Bono to San Miguel Beer in 2008.

“From the very beginning when I had him with Alaska, he came over in a trade with Larry Fonacier for Mike Cortez. He just totally transformed our team,” Cone said in an interview.

“It’s funny that we were actually trying to trade for Larry and LA was a throw-in because we needed a point guard since we’re training Mike Cortez. And then LA came in and transformed our team.”

“LA wasn’t our target. Larry was our target but we got LA, who transformed our team. It’s not a blessing in disguise but a blessing.”

At Alaska, Cone and Tenorio won the Fiesta Conference title in 2010.

Cone then left the Aces to join the old Purefoods franchise, which he led to the grand slam in 2014 under the banner of B-Meg Llamados.

Meanwhile, Tenorio joined Ginebra in a six-player transaction that also involved JVee Casio, Willie Miller, Enrico Villanueva and draft picks.

Cone and Tenorio reunited at Ginebra in 2015, leading to seven PBA titles that installed the American mentor as the winningest PBA coach ever.

On the side, they helped Gilas Pilipinas win the 30th Southeast Asian Games title in Manila in 2019 and a historic gold medal in the 19th Asian Games with Tenorio serving as one of Cone’s deputies.

When asked about the most important character that sets Tenorio apart from the great players he handled throughout his colorful coaching career, Cone couldn’t help but smile.

“He’s got the warrior spirit and he always had it,” said Cone, delighted over Tenorio’s successful return from a Stage 3 colon cancer. In his return, he delivered a pair of three-pointers that helped the Kings notch a 110-99 win over Terrafirma in the Commissioner’s Cup last Sunday.

“I used to say back when I was with Alaska and all the way to Ginebra that he is a warrior. Now, it’s even wittier this journey that he’s been on.”


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