MANILA - Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone on Sunday was recognized as the "Outstanding Coach of the Bubble" by the PBA Press Corps, after he led the Gin Kings to the All-Filipino Cup crown in the league's "bubble" in Clark, Pampanga last year.
Playing in unprecedented circumstances, Cone deftly guided the Gin Kings to their first PBA Philippine Cup crown since the 2006-07 season while navigating injury issues and the unique environment of the bubble.
Used to playing in front of thousands of fans, the Gin Kings still won the championship while playing in a virtually empty arena at the Angeles University Foundation Gym, where the only audience were their fellow players and the technical staff of the PBA. Ginebra defeated TNT Tropang GIGA in five games in the Finals, with LA Tenorio emerging as the Finals MVP.
"I think I'd first like to thank my wife for allowing me to join the bubble and leave her for two months," Cone said in his acceptance speech during Sunday's virtual awards night.
He gave effusive praise to the late, great Baby Dalupan, for whom the PBA Press Corps' Coach of the Year trophy is named.
"I have great love for the Dalupan family, and I have great love for Coach Baby himself. It's truly an honor to be associated with him in any situation," said Cone of the "Maestro," who won 15 championships in the PBA.
Cone shared the award with his staff and his players, expressing his pride for the way that the Gin Kings dealt with the "ups and downs of the bubble." He was also grateful to the PBA Board of Governors and Commissioner Willie Marcial, who organized the bubble in the first place and paved the way for the resumption of the All-Filipino Cup.
"It was like one big team in there, and Willie Marcial was the leader of it all," said Cone. "Without that, none of this would have happened. It's an experience that will stay with me throughout my whole life."
He also made special mention of Phoenix Super LPG coach Topex Robinson, who guided his team to a breakthrough semi-finals appearance in the Philippine Cup while also managing difficult circumstances.
"I just wanna acknowledge him and share this award with him. Topex Robinson did a tremendous job with his team, and this one's for you as well," Cone said.
"These things don't come around very often, so thank you so much," he added.
Cone has now won the top honor for PBA coaches four times, tied with San Miguel head coach Leo Austria and one away from tying Chot Reyes' record with five awards.
Robinson, for his part, expressed his gratitude to Cone for his gesture.
"It's a great honor to be mentioned by the person that I look up to," said Robinson, who became a head coach in the PBA for the first time last season. "(Cone) was also the one that gave me my first coaching opportunity in the PBA."
"I will be forever grateful to Coach Tim," he said.
Cone and the Gin Kings are now gearing up to defend their All-Filipino crown in the coming season, a task bolstered by their addition of Fil-German big man Christian Standhardinger in the past week. The rest of the league has also made moves, with Robinson's own Fuel Masters loading up by trading for Vic Manuel and Chris Banchero.
Cone is looking forward to having back the famed "barangay" when the PBA season resumes, likely in April.
"I want to thank the Ginebra fans," he had said. "We missed you. We missed you in the bubble, but hopefully, we'll be seeing you soon."
FROM THE ARCHIVES: