MANILA, Philippines—After 22 glorious PBA seasons, Alaska and its long-time head coach Tim Cone have decided to part ways.
“We have released Tim Cone as head coach of the Alaska Aces,” said Team Owner Wilfred Uytengsu Thursday during a press conference held at the Corinthian Plaza in Makati. “It came as quite a surprise to me when Tim asked me for his release last week.”
“We wish Tim well. We had quite a journey. I know there was never a 22-year partnership like this in the PBA,” added Uytengsu.
Joel Banal, who served as Cone’s assistant coach for many years, will take over the coaching reigns for the Aces when the 37th PBA season kicks off on October.
Cone, who steered Alaska to 13 titles including an elusive Grand Slam in 1996, cited he wanted to explore other challenges as one of the reasons for leaving his beloved franchise.
“I wouldn’t consider this a rest, I consider this more of a changing of direction. This is just simply a parting of ways. I would like to continue coaching and if there’s something out there, I’d certainly go for it,” said an emotional Cone.
Cone also denied rumors that he is being tipped to coach BMeg.
“I’ve heard of the rumors, I have not been given an offer from BMeg,” said Cone, who still has two years left on his contract.
With Banal, who won a title with the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the UAAP and Talk ‘N Text in 2002 and 2003, respectively, the Aces are still expected to be the same team primed for another title run.
“This is for sure, the 13 championships that’s hard to duplicate,” said Banal.
“The system is obviously working. We will use a lot of coach Tim’s system and little by little, probably, we would inject a little of what I know,” added Banal.
And Cone, who came in with his usual look dressed in his long sleeves and tie, showed immense respect to the Alaska franchise, the team which he started coaching when he was 31.
“I’ve learned so much from this organization. The way you go about things, and if you’re doing things the right way over and over again that begets winning. Don’t underestimate how unique Alaska is and that’s not going to be easy trying to be duplicated,” said Cone, who also shared that the toughest part was leaving the players.
“The hardest thing for me right now is leaving the players. [It’s] like a sledgehammer beating my heart,” said Cone.
Cone also shared he didn’t have the chance to say goodbye to his players.
He did however get the opportunity to do so right after the press conference with all of his troops seated at the back part of the room.
Cone thanked and hugged each one, from his reserves to his starters LA Tenorio, Tony dela Cruz, Cyrus Baguio and Sonny Thoss.
Dela Cruz, the veteran forward and team captain, also shared his sentiments.
“It’s sad for me as a player. In behalf of the players we’re obviously confused and shocked but the focus of our team is to win that All-Filipino championship,” said Dela Cruz.
“Coach Tim has been like [a]second father. He taught me a lot about basketball and life. Again, from all the players, we wish you well,” Dela Cruz added.