In his early years of coaching, Tim Cone watched Norman Black winning one championship after another and envied the success of his fellow American mentor who had the better team from the late 1980s to the early 1990s.
“Me and the rest of the other coaches were chasing Norman Black, who has been a symbol of success,” Cone told ABS-CBN.
“He was a grand slam coach with San Miguel and we watched him winning one championship after another. Not only was he a great coach, but he also had the better team that time.”
It took more than a decade before Cone overtook Black and the outspoken mentor even became the winningest coach in PBA history, surpassing the record of the late great Virgilio “Baby” Dalupan.
Cone joined the elite company of coaches, joining the circle of Dalupan, Tommy Manotoc and Black as grand slam champions, and he won not just one, but two grand slams – one with Alaska in 1996 and the other was with San Mig Coffee in 2014.
His latest feat, a 4-2 triumph over his long-time rival Black, increased Cone’s championship collection to 24.
Curiously, Cone has likewise extended his domination of his rivalry with Black.
“That rivalry has been one-sided over the past few years since he has done most of the winning,” Black said in a previous interview.
True enough, Cone is 5-0 in his head-to-head finals duel with Black.
In the 1995 season-ending Governors’ Cup, Cone, then handling Alaska, defeated Black’s San Miguel team in seven games.
It took some time before the two great coaches would face off anew in a championship showdown since Black spent a few years coaching the Ateneo Blue Eagles team in the UAAP where he won a string of championships before returning to the PBA, first as an assistant coach/consultant of TNT before taking over as head mentor of the Phone Pals, a team he led to winning the 2013 Philippine Cup.
Black transferred to Meralco and immediately turned the Bolts to a powerhouse squad. He would lead his squad to championship entries in the 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2022 Governors’ Cup, but in all those years, they would be denied of a title by Cone and the Gin Kings.
Cone explained the reason why he was able to reassert his dominance against Black’s team.
“I have Justin Brownlee and he doesn’t have him,” Cone said in a telephone interview. “If Norman had Justin, you would have been talking to him right now instead of me.”
“But I have my highest respect for Norman. He’s a great coach. He was a grand slam coach and led Ateneo to quite a number of championships as well. If Norman wasn’t away from the PBA coaching scene for a few years, he would have won a few more titles,” added Cone, the only coach in the PBA to win at least five championships in three different teams.