Gilas kicks off SEAG preparations

    TIM Cone’s time with Gilas Pilipinas, either as a stopgap measure or for the long run, begins now.

    The pro league’s winningest coach with 21 titles that include two grand slams with Alaska in 1996 and San Mig (now Magnolia) in 2014, hits the ground running as Gilas kicks off its preparations for the 30th Southeast Asian Games the country is hosting from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11.

    Cone accepted the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas’ offer to call the shots for Gilas last Sept. 26 after former national coach Yeng Guiao resigned last Sept. 11 for the biennial meet where the nationals are eyeing their 13th straight gold medal and 18th overall.

    Tapped by Cone in the 15-man national team training pool are six players from his PBA team Ginebra, namely, LA Tenorio, Japeth Aguilar, Stanley Pringle, Greg Slaughter, Scottie Thompson, and Art dela Cruz.

    Completing the list are San Miguel Beer’s June Mar Fajardo, Christian Standhardinger, Marcio Lassiter, and Chris Ross; Jayson Castro, Roger Pogoy, and Troy Rosario of TNT; Phoenix’s Matthew Wright; and Vic Manuel of Alaska.

    The Filipino dribblers are set to hold their first practice tonight at the Meralco Gym in Pasig.

    It was a similar set-up to the national team of 1994 when the core of then All-Filipino Cup champion San Miguel Beer, with coach Norman Black at the helm, represented the country in the Hiroshima Asiad. Pro stars Alvin Patrimonio and Kenneth Duremdes, and amateurs Marlou Aquino and Jeff Cariaso reinforced the Philippine five.

    Cone, 61, comes full circle after guiding an all-pro national squad, also known as the “Centennial Team,” to a bronze medal in the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok, Thailand.

    The SBP initially planned to field an amateur-laden team to the SEA Games led by the likes of Kai Sotto, Kobe Paras, and Thirdy Ravena, and to be beefed up by some PBA players.

    Cone and the SBP, however, opted to have an all-pro pool instead due to lack of time to teach Cone’s system to the young guns with the games kicking off exactly two months from now.

    Former Gilas deputies Jong Uichico and Jimmy Alapag, Richard Del Rosario, Freddie Abuda, and Kirk Collier, Cone’s assistants at the Kings, were named as part of Cone’s coaching staff for the SEA Games. – Michael Jugado