Just days away from the Asian Games, Tim Cone can strike off a few things from his worry list.
He already has a 12-man roster, and everyone—even the alternate who sits at No. 13—is excited about representing the Philippines in the basketball competition of the continental Olympics.
“I don’t have to worry about motivation; they’re motivated,” Cone said on Thursday during an open workout jointly held by the men’s and women’s squads at PhilSports Arena.
Below the surface, there also seems to be no need for Cone to worry about the coal-hot coaching spot vacated by Chot Reyes.
In a training day open to the public, fans easily gravitated to the Barangay Ginebra coach, with several taking selfies with the Philippine Basketball Association’s all-time—by a mile—leader in championships among tacticians.
“I think, nothing against coach Reyes, but it’s … best for coach Tim Cone to prove that what he can do is different compared to coach Chot,” said Angelo Fabie, a spectator who joined one of the fan interaction games held during the event.
Fan opinion was extremely polarized during Reyes’ stint as national coach, with the vitriol reaching a boiling point during the World Cup. Reyes has since stepped down as national coach and has explained the behind-the-scenes struggles that bogged the national team’s preparations for the World Cup.
So far, fans have been generally optimistic of Cone, without setting the same expectations hoisted on the shoulders of the World Cup squad.
“[P]rofessionally, he’s already proven a lot,” fan John Francis Capoon said.
“I think there’s still a continuity, considering the fact that Tim Cone was an assistant coach of Chot and we all know that Tim Cone is the winningest coach in Philippine basketball so that won’t be a problem,” Fabio Ontong Jr. said.
Cone hasn’t said much about the team’s prospects, but he believes the national squad is in the right frame of mind to start the country’s medal bid.
“We’re all available. Everybody wants to be here. That’s the biggest and strongest part of the team, they’re excited to be in the national team,” Cone said.
“They’re excited about the prospect of playing China, Korea, Bahrain and Jordan.”
Fiba World Cup holdovers June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar and Roger Pogoy, who was in street clothes, were in the open practice, along with Calvin Abueva and Terrence Romeo, Jason Perkins, Calvin Oftana, Chris Newsome and Justin Brownlee.
Skipping the event were Scottie Thompson, Mo Tautuaa, Ange Kouame and Stanley Pringle, who continues practicing with the squad despite his role as an alternate.
“Stanley is our 13th [player] in case something happens. He’s sacrificed himself coming here and working with us, even though he doesn’t have a spot in the team at this point,” said Cone.
The Asian Games will begin on Sept. 23, with the men’s squad kicking off their bid for a medal finish against Bahrain on the 26th.
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