There’s no such thing as ‘Sagip Kapamilya’ among teams under the San Miguel Corp. umbrella in the PBA, as far as Tim Cone is concerned.
Brgy. Ginebra’s loss to sister team San Miguel during the tail-end of the 2020 Philippine Cup elimination round triggered the allegations once more as the Beermen badly needed a win to keep their playoff hopes alive while the Gin Kings can afford to lose one of their last two assignments due to a superior record.
The Beermen were coming off back-to-back losses while the Gin Kings were on a three-game roll prior to the match-up. Expectations were high that the two teams will continue on with their respective streaks.
“They were at the verge of death, so mentally, our players knew at that point that we needed to win one, so they had that cushion going into the San Miguel game,” explained Cone during an episode of Zoom In on Spin.ph. “San Miguel was coming in with the idea that they were desperate and had to win, so already, they had a great advantage over us in terms of motivation, in terms of pressure.”
“I came in with the idea that ‘if we were going to come in and beat San Miguel with all that stuff that we were behind on them, because they were so motivated and we knew we had an extra day… and we were totally exhausted at that point.”
“So my idea going into that game was, ‘Okay, we will give San Miguel a shot, we’ll try to beat them if we can. But the moment we – in my mind – it looks like we’re not going to be able to beat them, then I’m going to make sure our focus is on Terrafirma, because we knew we could beat Terrafirma,” added the 23-time PBA champion mentor.
Dousing more fuel to the fire was the performance of Stanley Pringle and LA Tenorio. The usually explosive Pringle managed to contribute only 7 points in 19 minutes of action while Tenorio missed all seven of his shots and ended up with a big fat egg.
“For us to beat San Miguel, we need to be at the very top of our game. So for us, what happens if we try to win that game and we try and try and try, and we’re already tired, and we get exhausted, then we open ourselves up to losing also to Terrafirma so would you rather gamble or take advantage of the sure thing,” said Cone.
“It had nothing to do with them being San Miguel. It would’ve been Talk ‘N Text, it would’ve been another. I didn’t care who it would’ve been,” he added. “We were going to win the game we needed to win, because ultimately, what are we going to be judged on? Are we going to be judged on that one game or are we going to be judged on the championship,” he added.
Cone, however, understands where the fans are coming from given the scenarios of the two teams and the implications of the result.
“It was a tough decision. I know the fans would not like it. I knew that they would be upset. I didn’t know that they’d be that upset, because I thought they would be upset at us losing the game the way we did, not to who we lost to. I didn’t think about it being San Miguel. It just happened to be San Miguel,” stressed Cone.
“And I was surprised at the backlash. And then I realized it wasn’t about us losing, it was about us losing to San Miguel in a game they needed to win, so it looked like we were giving it to them. We certainly weren’t giving it to them. But we were not going to risk ourselves losing a championship by having to go all-out against San Miguel. I was just trying to play smart basketball. Thankfully, we look back on it now, it was the right decision,” he added.
Cone reminded Brgy. Ginebra fans that the team loves beating San Miguel, and it goes both ways.
“I don’t buy in to that San Miguel family stuff at all. Our biggest rival, it’s not Talk ‘N Text, it’s not Alaska, it’s not Rain or Shine. Our biggest rival is San Miguel. Our biggest rival after San Miguel is Purefoods. We are always competing for the attention of the big boss, so there’s a real, big rivalry,” said Cone.
“Our players actually don’t like the San Miguel players, and I know the San Miguel players don’t like our players. I know that. I hear them talk. So if we’re trying to do things for them, it doesn’t happen. It really doesn’t, not unless it can help us, which it did at that point.”