Coaches' First Five: Abarrientos, Lastimosa, Pingris banner Cone's best starters

Tim Cone, the all-time winningest coach in the PBA, has coached a number of top players. Ernie Sarmiento/ESPN5

There are several multi-titled coaches in the PBA, such as Leo Austria, Norman Black, Tim Cone, Baby Dalupan, Yeng Guiao, Chot Reyes and Jong Uichico. In this series, we identify the all-time starting five of these seven coaches, choosing from all the players each one has ever coached.

With each passing year and decade of excellence, Tim Cone continues to run away in the discussion of greatest coach of all-time in the PBA. His 22 championships and two Grand Slam seasons are part of a bulletproof resume that will most definitely stand the test of time.

And with all those championships, it's obvious that several stars, and a few legends, have played under his wing. These players' careers have flourished because of Cone's attention to detail on both ends of the floor.

Here is Cone's all-time starting five.

Point Guard: 1996 Johnny Abarrientos

"The Flying A" was at the absolute peak of his powers in 1996, which happened to coincide with the Milkmen winning their historic Grand Slam. Abarrientos was unstoppable in leading Alaska to the promised land thrice. He was crowned Best Player of the Conference during the Commissioner's Cup, and capped off the dream season with the Most Valuable Player trophy.

Cone put the ball in Abarrientos' hands and gave him the freedom to create for himself or for his teammates. It didn't matter what had to be done, because Johnny almost always made the right decision for Alaska to win. It's no surprise that every single point guard that played for Cone has been compared to Abarrientos. He's simply the point god.

Shooting Guard: 1996 Jojo Lastimosa

Several great shooting guards like Scottie Thompson and James Yap have had excellent years under Cone. But the reason why Jojo Lastimosa gets the nod is because his reputation and resume were formed under Cone during the team's epic Grand Slam season.

Lastimosa stellar that season (15.0 PPG, 3.6 3PM, 37.2% 3P%) and cemented himself as one of the greatest clutch shooters of all time. He was named Finals MVP of the All-Filipino Cup, after Alaska defeated the Purefoods TJ Hotdogs in five games.

Lastimosa's game evolved under Cone with Alaska, even with Abarrientos running the ship and controlling the offense, Jolas was able to benefit from all the attention thrown at his backcourt mate, punishing the defense that sagged off of him. And when time was running out, you wanted the ball in Lastimosa's hands.

Small Forward: 1998 Kenneth Duremdes

Everyone knew that Kenneth Duremdes was due for bigger things, despite playing in the shadow of Vergel Meneses. And it took a trade to Alaska, and the trust of Cone for Duremdes to realize just how good he truly was.

Playing with the freedom and comfort of a superstar in the making, Duremdes was the catalyst for Alaska's championships in the All-Filipino and Commissioner's Cups in 1998. The Milkmen could have also gone for their second Grand Slam, if Duremdes, Abarrientos and Jojo Lastimosa hadn't joined the Centennial Team for the Asian Games. But despite missing out on the Governors' Cup title, Duremdes did enough to secure the MVP trophy.

Power Forward: 2014 Marc Pingris

"Pinoy Sakuragi" reached greater heights during San Mig Super Coffee's Grand Slam run under Cone (Are you starting to notice a trend here?). Pingris averaged 9.8 PPG, 7.4 RPG, and 2.7 APG during that season. He was selected to the Mythical Second Team and All-Defensive team, and was named Defensive Player of the Year.

Pingris was the heart and soul of a Mixers team that took pride on defense. He routinely guarded centers and forwards bigger than him, and protected the paint against imports. His energy and passion fueled his teammates for three straight conferences, en route to the Grand Slam.

Center: 2017 Greg Slaughter

Greg Slaughter winning Best Player of the Conference in the 2017 Governors' Cup was like catching lightning in a bottle. He didn't play the entire Philippine Cup and Commissioner's Cup that season as he was rehabbing from a torn ACL. At that point, many people were wondering if Ginebra was better off with "Gregzilla" with Japeth Aguilar was rapidly ascending and LA Tenorio and Scottie Thompson running a more free-wheeling offense.

But Slaughter's impressive return erased all doubts. Cone was patient with player's rehab and Slaughter became an impact player despite having his minutes monitored all conference long. But with averages of 14.7 points and 8.8 rebounds at the end of the semifinals, Slaughter reminded everyone that he is still a 7-foot game-changer in the PBA.