Devance staying with Cone, Ginebra despite being an unrestricted free agent

MANILA, Philippines - Joe Devance won all of his 8 championship under Tim Cone’s tutelage and he has no plans of going separate ways with the storied tactician. 

Devance, who underwent surgery on his foot and is likely to be sidelined until February, has been relegated to the unrestricted free agent list by Barangay Ginebra, meaning he can sign with any team that he wants to.

However, the 35-year-old Filipino-American assured that he will be staying with the league’s crowd darlings, especially since the move is, ironically, to keep him. 

With league rules allowing teams to put only one player in their injured/reserved list, that is Art dela Cruz for Ginebra, Devance had to be placed as an unrestricted free agent.

But Devance is not going to play for any team and coach but Ginebra and Cone, admitting he and the 60-year-old mentor already have an “understanding” soon as he is healthy to suit up. 

“Me and coach Tim, we spoke. Everything’s okay with the understanding that we have. Me and coach Tim have a great relationship, as well as the guys from the San Miguel management,” said Devance. 

“I’ve been blessed to play pretty much my whole career with coach Tim. He’s taught me so much. It’s kind of hard for me to think of playing on any coach other than coach Tim. I don’t really see that.” 

Cone, likewise, is confident that Devance is not going to jump ship, after all, Ginebra is touted as the biggest threat to San Miguel’s four-peat aspirations in the Philippine Cup.

The winningest PBA coach explained that in the past, teams were allowed to have two players in the injured/reserve list and now that dela Cruz is there since he has been injured for 10 months, putting Devance in the unrestricted free agent list was the practical thing to do. 

“We talked to him. We’re not looking to cut him. But for a reason, again it’s a loophole, I believe in this stage, if you put a guy under unrestrictive free agency, teams have a chance to claim that player off a waiver wire. They call that waiver wire if they accept the contract. But we don’t have that here,” said Cone. 

Also, Devance being an unrestricted free agent helps John Wilson, who was activated by Ginebra from being a practice player in lieu of Devance’s absence, to earn a bigger paycheck, Cone said. 

“He (Wilson) makes more money if he’s active because if he’s a practice player, his salary is lower. Joe understands that and he’s basically doing this for John. John now has a chance to get some minutes sometime. It gives an opportunity to showcase John. We truly appreciate Joe because he’s doing it for the team. Joe’s very unselfish.”

Still, teams are free to approach Devance and offer him a contract but as far as Cone is concerned, he is to stay with Ginebra for the long run. 

“No one’s going be able to steal Joe from us,” Cone said. “Teams can attempt to get Joe but I don’t think it’s going happen. Joe is not entertaining everybody.”

“He’s a big man and a lot of teams will go after him. But right now, like I said, it’s a loophole in the rule, not illegal, it’s legal to do it so we’re going do it. Like I said, it has been done by other teams. It’s the first time I’ve done it.” –

Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.