San Mig Coffee's head coach Tim Cone gestures to the referee. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – San Mig Super Coffee head coach Tim Cone could only shake his head and marvel at his players after they helped him achieve something that even he did not think was possible – a second Grand Slam in the PBA.
"I'm overwhelmed by it," Cone told reporters after San Mig Coffee had beaten Rain or Shine, 92-89, in a nail-biting Game 5 to clinch the PBA Governors Cup title and a sweep of all three conferences this season.
"The water hit me, but this whole thing has not hit me yet," he added, referring to the impromptu shower he got in the middle of the court when import Marqus Blakely dumped a gallon of ice water on him in celebration, to the delight of the San Mig fans at the Araneta Coliseum.
It was the second Grand Slam of Cone's career, having already achieved the feat with the Alaska Milkmen in 1996. The Mixers have actually won four straight PBA championships, starting with last season's Governors Cup.
"It didn't seem possible," Cone said of winning a second Grand Slam. "Honestly, it didn't seem possible even to me."
"The fact that 18 years ago was such a special moment to me, and I was telling the guys, 'You know, you get to do that once in your life.' And now, the two of us, (assistant coach and Alaska legend) Johnny (Abarrientos) and myself, have been able to do it twice in our life," he said.
"That's just true blessings."
Cone said it has been "amazing" for him to watch his players constantly find ways to win, even when their backs were against the wall in do-or-die games.
"Every time we come to a big game, I'd say, 'Well, this is the time it ain't gonna happen. We played with fire too much, it ain't gonna happen.' And somehow, the guys find a way," he said.
"We do it again, and get to a Game 7 or a Game 5 or even a Game 3 in a best-of-three, and I think, 'It ain't gonna happen this time, it's not in our favor.' And then the guys again just find a way, and it's been amazing to watch them," he added.
Cone noted that with his 1996 Alaska team, there was a certain sense of inevitability about their Grand Slam, whereas with San Mig Coffee, they were "just guessing all the time whether we were gonna do it or not."
"That Alaska team in the third conference of that '96 year was so dominant," Cone reminisced. "They won 13 games in a row, we just swept through the playoffs, and there was a certain level of inevitability that we were gonna win it."
"Here, it was like, whoa, you know? It had to come down to the last two seconds, and we had to earn it," he added.
"I don't want to say that this is any sweeter, but you know, the harder you work for it, oftentimes the sweeter it is."
Cone refused to say who would win in a contest between the 1996 Alaska team and the 2014 San Mig Coffee team, calling it "too tough a question" and insisting that the two squads were "apples and oranges."
He did stress that both teams were "special."
"I've been blessed twice that I got special guys who bonded in a special way and did special things," Cone said. "Ordinary people can't do that, you know, and that's what those guys did today."