Cone aware Gilas coaching stint could be a 'one-and-done'

Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone said he has yet to accept the offer to lead Gilas Pilipinas in its title defense at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in December. But the two-time Grand Slam coach confirmed that San Miguel brass have given him their blessing to take on the role.

"Well, that decision is supposed to be made tomorrow, and I have to talk more fully with the powers that be," Cone said on Sunday. "I'll do what I can to help whatever I can, and apparently so far I got the blessing of San Miguel, and that's obviously crucial. That won't happen without that."

Cone also said he'll meet again with the top officials of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) on Monday to iron out the details.

"I don't know about any of the mechanics. I don't know who the pool is, I don't know where we'll practice, I don't know how many practices we'll have, I don't know who my staff is, I don't even know even if they're gonna make a firm commitment to me. We still have to talk about those mechanics," he said.

"That's why Monday was supposed to be the day we resolve this whole issue. not tonight, because I don't have any real info except that Mr. Al Panlilio [the SBP president] did approach me and we did talk about it. But nothing firm has been decided at this point."

Should the SBP decide to ask him on, Cone said he knows it would be a "one-and-done" commitment with Gilas Pilipinas.

"I understand fully that, if I take the position, it's just a stop-gap position. It's not a commitment to the Gilas head coaching [job]," said Cone. "It's just that the SEA Games is coming in quick and they want someone to step up and do it. So I could very easily be a one-and-done guy. Just go and coach the SEA Games, that's it. And I understand that fully. And this, with me coaching, that will give them time to put their search committee together and find the guy they really want to coach [until], I guess, 2023. ... And I'm perfectly OK with that."

Nonetheless, Cone said he's flattered that he has emerged as SBP's top choice for the regional meet.

"I'm honored, obviously, that they thought about me. It wasn't something I went and applied for -- not that I wouldn't if I knew the applications were out there, but they came to me and I'm really honored and flattered, and I'll do what I can for everybody," he said.

Different stakes, preparation

A stint in the SEA Games would provide entirely different stakes from when he first coached the national team 21 years ago, but Cone said he'd approach the job with the intent of capturing a gold medal on the international stage -- something that he wasn't able to do in a bronze-medal finish at the 1998 Asian Games.

"I know that as well or better than anybody. I know. I've been there, done that. Or should I say, I've been there and didn't do that. So yeah. If this position goes in, I hope that I could do it this time," he said.

Reaching that goal will depend entirely on how Gilas prepares and uses its available talent, but Cone said that it's not the length of preparation that matters.

"This will probably be taken wrongly, but I think preparation is a little overrated. I think you got guys in shape and ready to go, and it's a matter of teaching system. You don't need three months of preparation. And the preparation, if I may say, comes from playing tournament to tournament to tournament to tournament. That's where the preparation comes," Cone said.

"It's not, 'We're gonna prepare for a tournament and that's it.' It's really getting a group of guys that are playing continuously, but they don't need three months every time before a tournament. They need a couple of weeks before tournament. The tournament itself will be the preparation."

Whatever the case, Cone knows they'll have to take any build-ups seriously since the definitive strides Southeast Asian basketball has made over the past years won't make the battle in December any easier.

"The ABL [Asean Basketball League] has really helped the SEA teams grow their basketball. They have a lot of exposure, they play with imports and imports who want to come in and be a naturalized player. It's not a slam dunk by any means, so it's always seemingly has been in the past, but it's getting harder and harder," Cone said.

"Just like in the '50s, Asian Games was a slam dunk for us. Then it got harder and harder and harder. So now it's getting harder. Basketball is going more around the world. It's getting to even the Southeast Asian teams. So you know, basketball's growing. And we need to continue to grow ourselves. People are catching up, no doubt about it."