Had itself knocked off big time in the recently held FIBA Basketball World Cup in China, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas has begun picking up the pieces to start regaining its footing.
Changes in the country’s basketball program had initially been made in the aftermath of the rough World Cup campaign of Gilas Pilipinas that saw it finishing dead-last in the 32-team field, with more plans being crafted by the federation to set the country’s hoops push back on the right track.
Among the most recent of the changes was the naming of Tim Cone as national team coach, which was announced by SBP on Monday.
The SBP said that Cone was interested in taking on the challenge of handling the Gilas men’s team when the idea was presented to him and just needed to talk to his family and bosses at San Miguel Corporation, including president Ramon S. Ang, first to get their thoughts on it.
Having gotten the nod that he was asking for, Cone agreed and the SBP did not waste much time announcing it.
The SBP, though, cleared that for now the agreement with Cone is only for the 30th Southeast Asian Games which the country is hosting later this year and that plans for him to coach beyond that would still have to be discussed and threshed out further.
Cone will be taking over from Yeng Guiao, who stepped down from his post following the last-place finish of the Philippines in the World Cup.
The coaching development marked a return to national team duty by the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel coach, who called the shots for the Philippine squad, known as the “Centennial Team,” in 1998 which won the William Jones Cup trophy and the bronze medal in the Asian Games in Thailand.
Considering where it was coming from, the SBP did well in naming Cone as Gilas coach to get its “rebound” move going.
Forced to go over the country’s basketball program, who better to help SBP for the task than the Philippine Basketball Association’s most successful coach.
Of course, by this, I do not mean that Cone’s PBA success will translate to automatic windfall for Gilas in international competitions. But one thing going for him is he does know winning, as attested by 21 league titles, and if he could infuse such mindset to Gilas at this stage of its existence the better.
Cone also champions working within a system, customizing it with the personnel at his disposal and the environment he has to much success.
And if SBP would be able to surround him with the right people to work with and given the needed time to develop a workable thrust, I believe Cone could set the tone for the national team being competitive anew in the high-profile international arena.
While for now Cone’s involvement with Gilas is limited to the SEA Games, still it is a move in the right direction for the country’s basketball program.
After the World Cup we had, something surely had to happen and change, and this coaching move should help moving forward.
Michael Angelo S. Murillo has been a columnist since 2003. He is a BusinessWorld reporter covering the Sports beat.