PBA 2020: How Tim Cone reinvented his coaching game 2
Cone understands that it isn't enough to win championships as a coach. It is equally important to take of his players. Illustration by Paul Eric Roca

PBA 2020: How Tim Cone reinvented his coaching game

The celebrated coach is good not just because he wins championships, but because he knows how to take care of his team.
Karlo Lovenia | Mar 08 2020

In the last PBA tournament, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel beat the Meralco Bolts to capture the Governors’ Cup, signaling the end of a long, drawn-out season. The grind had been intense, and the results had finally bore fruit. But the game dictates there’s no time to celebrate. The expectations for these players are to keep on training to win the next championship.

Wake up. Grind. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Most players followed this type of mentality. Jared Dillinger of Ginebra was no different.

PBA 2020: How Tim Cone reinvented his coaching game 3
Tim Cone, who called the shots for the Philippine team in the last SEAG, is the most decorated PBA coach in history, winning 22 titles. Photo by George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

A few days after his team’s win, Dillinger informed his coach Tim Cone that he wanted to meet with his shooting coach to train. More and more players have been getting their own personal coaches to work with during the offseason and so was Dillinger. The Philippine Cup was on the horizon, and improving and working on one’s shot made perfect sense for the aging wing.

Common sense dictates Coach Tim should agree with his player’s plans. A player with that kind of drive and mentality can make life easier for any other coach. But Cone discouraged him from training.

PBA 2020: How Tim Cone reinvented his coaching game 4
Jared Dillinger wanted to work on his game right after winning the Governors' Cup for Ginebra, but Cone told him to relax. Photo from PBA Media Bureau

In fact, he even went as far as to tell Dillinger to get fat.

It seems ludicrous for a basketball coach to do so, especially someone as successful as Cone. He’s won countless rings, Coach of the Year awards, and even rare grand slams.

Basketball is fast-paced, and requires its competitors to have exceptional cardio and endurance—especially in today’s quicker style of play. It also requires added endurance, agility, and cardio from them. Suffice to say, “getting fat” is counter intuitive.


Take a break

So why would a celebrated coach tell his players to relax and get fat?

Most recently, there has been an increase in awareness surrounding rest. It all started with Gregg Popovich, the coach of the San Antonio Spurs. In 2012, Popovich decided to rest four of his top five scorers in a big game versus the Miami Heat. It was such a radical move at that time because the expectation for players was to play. This was an especially important game because it was a clash between two championship contenders. The move didn’t sit well with then NBA Commissioner, late David Stern, so he fined Popovich. Little did we know that rebellious move then would start to become the norm seven years later.

From players trying to play an entire 82-game season, the league has shifted to managing their playing time and load to prepare for the playoffs. This isn’t a concept that’s only made itself present in the NBA. Even in the PBA, teams have started to have their own ways of managing the load of their players.

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Tim Cone has been coaching in the country since 1989, winning with different teams, and in different tournaments. Photo from ABS-CBN News

The concept dives into the reality that players are only human. As elite and phenomenal as they may be, they have their limits, especially when it comes to the miles they can take on during their careers. Which introduces us to a brand-new concept about the roles of coaches: they aren’t just expected to win. They’re also expected to take care of their players.

This dual role is difficult, but necessary, and Cone has recognized this. His players in Ginebra aren’t getting any younger. While another tournament looms in the horizon, working on it can be done at a better time. And to do it days after a won conference may not be the best choice.

This speaks of how good Cone is as a basketball coach. Not only does he know how to win games, but he’s also mastered how to take care of his athletes. After all, the success of an organization is dependent on the performance of your staff and how your leaders manage them.

Two months ago, Coach Tim told his players to go get fat. That isn’t by accident nor is it careless management. It is a testament to his wisdom and knowledge as a longtime coach, who has seen, heard, done it all. And this may just be what brings them another championship come the PBA season.