The announcement, even though it has been in the rumor mill for quite some weeks now, still came as a shock to the fans of this basketball team that has always been known as the team with the triangle offense and Tim Cone. If other teams have franchise players, Alaska has a franchise coach. Players have come and gone, but Tim always remains with Alaska, thru thick and thin. And so, when Alaska management sent a note that an emergency press conference was to be held on Sept 1, 2011, everyone started to speculate that something big is brewing behind the scenes of one of the PBA's most successful teams. Alaska never holds press conferences and so this one must be for something pretty big.
And it was as big as can be...team owner Wilfred Uytengsu, started the press conference by saying that they have released Coach Tim Cone despite a live contract that runs till the end of 2013. An era has suddenly ended, with the players and fans shell-shocked with the announcement. According to the Aces' Website
Cone then gathered his Aces for the last time and bid farewell to the players. He hasn't told the players about his decision before the official announcement.“It came as quite a surprise to me when Tim asked me for his release last week.” Uytengsu stated. “We talked about his reasons and discussed the past and what had been accomplished. I thought he gave this more thought after we first met and felt Tim believed there was still more to do with Alaska. So when he came back after just a couple of days and said he felt he needed a new challenge and wanted to do something different and really stretch himself, I just couldn’t reconcile it. Despite having a live contract with two remaining years, the Alaska Aces have released Cone upon his request.”
“I can’t explain it, I can’t explain why, but it just came,” he said, as the players listened intently, as if they were in a huddle in the middle of the arena instead of a posh cafe in Makati. “This is the right time. You’re not gonna miss a beat without me.”
Tim made it clear that the decision was "a leap of faith and not because of another offer." He also said that the "hardest part of the decision was also leaving the players. I don't want them to feel I'm abandoning them. It's a truly difficult process."
Uytengsu tapped first assistant coach Joel Banal to replace Tim. He is, in my opinion, the one who deserves to replace Coach Tim and I believe that the Aces will succeed with him. Add to that the intact lineup with four possible new rookies, as Tim Cone said, he is leaving the Aces in good hands.
But still, it was a heartbreaker because Tim has been the face of Alaska since 1989. Some fans even thought he was the young Alaska boy in the cans of Alaska Milk! We will miss his presence in the Alaska bench, his temper tantrums over non-calls and bad calls, his technical fouls, his "Alright..." that starts in every huddle during a time out. If he is to coach another team, I can't imagine Tim wearing those uniform shirts of the coaches instead of his long-sleeved and neck tie outfit that has been an Alaska tradition. But we all respect Tim's decision and it is true, that all good things must come to an end. I bid him farewell and good luck with his future endeavors. May he find the right path that will enable him to grow some more. As team manager Joaqui Trillo said,
And so another chapter in the history of the Alaska team ends...a door closes but with this, a new window opens, a new era begins. But what stays the same is the tradition of the Aces. And that tradition is a winning tradition."He's one of the best coaches ever. I won't put him on that level yet, HE CAN DO MORE."
The 13th Championship (2010), the last under Coach Tim Cone where the Aces, being the underdog from the quarterfinals to the Finals, beat all the big named teams of MVP and SMC.