Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone considered himself “fortunate” to have pitted coaching skills against the legendary Virgilio “Baby” Dalupan when the American was just starting his career with Alaska in 1989.
Cone even had a chance to face Dalupan at the sidelines in the Finals of the 1990 Third Conference. Dalupan was then calling the shorts for a young Purefoods franchise.
Alaska was then up, 2-0 in the best-of-5 Finals when Dalupan dug deep from his vast coaching experience, steering Purefoods back to three straight wins on the way to what would turn out to become his 15th and last championship as a PBA coach.
“I was just truly fortunate to coach against him in his last couple of years,” Cone recalled after Ginebra’s practice, as he paid tribute to Dalupan, who passed away early Thursday.
“That was my first Finals appearance and it was his last championship so were always been kind of intertwined,” he said.
The American coach admitted he was a newbie in PBA coaching when he went up against Dalupan.
“At that point, he won his last championship there, while I was trying to win my first and I was chasing him all these times,” shared the Ginebra coach.
Cone admitted that Dalupan’s 15 league titles was the standard for coaching, an achievement that motivated him to work harder as a PBA coach.
“It’s a little bittersweet but I had so much respect for him. And the dig to pursue that record, that kept me motivated and pushed me more and again, I got to beat him,” he said.
The Finals defeat no doubt, prepared Cone for greatness as he guided Alaska to 13 championships from there, including the rare Grand Slam in 1996.
When he moved over to San Mig (now Star) in 2012, he won another 5 PBA titles, including the 2014 Grand Slam, making him the only coach in league history to win the “Triple Crown” twice.
The 2014 season was even more special because of the fact that he surpassed Dalupan’s 15 championships during the Philippine Cup when San Mig defeated Rain or Shine in the Finals.
Today, Cone has a won a record total of 18 PBA championships. – Richard Dy
Follow this writer on Twitter: @richava