Tim Cone as head coach of Gilas Pilipinas

Why Tim Cone’s Success as a Basketball Coach Goes Beyond Numbers

Tim Cone has become a legend in Philippine basketball. But the respect he’s earned goes beyond his 25 PBA championships.

Tim Cone’s reputation precedes him.

25 PBA championships, five PBA Coach of the Year awards, two Asian Games medals, and more — yes, he is the winningest basketball coach in the Philippines. This is, of course, a major reason for his recent appointment as the permanent coach of Gilas Pilipinas, which has been well-received thus far.

For the most part, fans and industry experts share the same sentiment that Cone is the right person to lead the men’s national basketball team. After all, he is more than just a head coach. If his trophy-laden career has taught us anything, it’s that he is a true leader.

Service-oriented mindset

When Tim Cone joined the Gilas Pilipinas coaching team ahead of the 2023 FIBA World Cup, headed by Chot Reyes, he expressed that it was because he wanted to give back to the country. After all, he has spent his entire career dedicated to Philippine basketball and Filipino players. But he made his “duty” even clearer when he took on the Asian Games job.

After a disappointing World Cup run, the Gilas men had their backs against the wall coming into the Asian Games. Even so, Cone took on the job as head coach following Reyes’ exit, and with minimal time to prepare, it was never going to be an easy job. Yet, he openly accepted the challenge in hopes of uplifting the country, and the team went on to win their first Asian Games gold since 1962.

After the win, he knew that he fulfilled his duty. “We know it means so much to everyone back home. For us to able to do that to our countrymen was such a huge thing,” he said.

Long-term goals

Many coaches can say that leading the national team is a way of giving back, but Tim Cone uses his actions to speak for his words.

After his recent appointment as national team head coach, he has been highlighting that this Gilas Pilipinas era will be defined by continuity and player development. Upon revealing his pool of 12 national team players, the 25-time PBA champion emphasized that he expects these players to “stay together“, competing in all the upcoming international tournaments, not just this year, but in the next four years.

“As we’re saying, we want to keep this team intact because every time we play, we will either grow from either the success or the failure that we’ll have,” Cone shared. With this, it’s evident that as a head coach, he is not just geared toward one or two major successes that will cap off his career. More than this, he is after setting up a strong foundation for the future of the program as well.

Humility as a leader

Despite his 25 PBA championships and a historic Asian Games gold medal (among his many other achievements as a basketball coach) Tim Cone is not one to bask in the spotlight or the adoration of his fans.

For instance, even when he recorded his 1,000th PBA win, becoming the first coach to reach such a feat, he minimized the fact, crediting the high number to his long tenure. “It’s a longevity record, really,” he said at the time. And after celebrating the milestone, he simply said, “We’ll enjoy this for a few moments and then we’ll move on.”

He has exhibited similar sentiments while coaching Gilas Pilipinas. Amidst big successes, he is always quick to credit the players, as well as his fellow coaches.

But, he doesn’t always run from the spotlight. In fact, when his teams suffer major losses, he doesn’t shy away from taking accountability — a trait that good leaders possess.

Earned respect

Yes, the numbers to his career have definitely earned him a certain level of respect. But numbers can only go so far. Perhaps a bigger reason why Tim Cone is a well-liked coach among players and fans is because he earned their respect in other ways as well.

For one thing, he is known to be a straightforward leader. Cone does not beat around the bush, which is something that individuals learn to respect. But another facet of his success is his leadership style.

For years, people have always attributed Cone’s success to his mentorship. For instance, his wife has previously revealed that what he enjoys is not winning at all costs, but rather, he thrives in developing talent and motivating his players to work hard, taking no shortcuts. This is likely why his relationships with players are strong, and why he’s been able to win with nearly every team he’s coached.

All in all, it’s easy to understand Tim Cone’s legendary status and that the numbers may just be a byproduct of what he represents as a leader.

Banner image from FIBA.

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