Cone says Yap's sacrifice made Purefoods a success

MANILA, Philippines – Tim Cone started a new era in his already historic PBA coaching career when he was officially introduced as the new head coach of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel on Thursday, July 23, at the headquarters of the San Miguel Corporation.

But even as he discussed how much he’s looking forward to calling the shots for his new team and utilizing some of the new players he will have, Cone made sure to also talk about one standout from his old squad whose willingness to sacrifice individual accolades for the benefit of the team still resonates. 

“I came into Purefoods with great trepidation about coaching James Yap,” said Cone, who was hired as the head coach of the Purefoods/Star Hotshots (then known as the B-Meg Llamados) in September 2011.  

“I didn’t know James. I just knew him from all the Kris Aquino stuff and saw him on TV, and I just knew that we couldn’t stop him in basketball games. He was impossible to stop.”

By the time Cone was hired as Yap’s new coach, he was already a two-time PBA MVP and two-time Mythical First Team member. Some regarded him as the best player in the league. 

“But I didn’t know his personality. I didn’t know what kind of person he was. I didn’t know if he would respond to me. That was really kind of a scary thing coming in, and as it turns out, James was just an absolutely wonderful person. Quiet, unassuming, just not the persona you though at all.”

Yap had only won two championships before Cone was hired. As the 18-time champion head coach moves on to Ginebra, he leaves with Yap now in possession of 7 championship rings. 

“James really sacrificed himself to mesh himself in the system,” said Cone, who implemented his Triangle Offense, which promotes equal scoring opportunities for the team. “He really did. That would be, probably for me, his greatest legacy to this era of the team.”

The 33-year-old Yap’s numbers declined over the years with Cone at the helm. While some of that was related to his advancing age, it was still mostly due to the reduced role he played for Cone in terms of having to score the basketball. 

Per, Yap averaged 18.8 points per contest the year before Cone became B-Meg’s head coach. In the following season, his averaged dipped to 16.7 points a game. Over the next 3 seasons, it fell to 13.3, 12.0, and 11.8 points a game, respectively. 

“Everybody criticized him as his numbers went down over the years, but as his numbers went down, we won more games and we won more championships, so that’s a great tribute to him,” complimented Cone, who led Purefoods (then known as the San Mig Coffee Mixers) to 4 straight PBA titles from the 2013 Governors’ Cup up to the 2014 Governors’ Cup. 

“If he hadn’t done that - and Jason [Webb] knows this as well - we would not have had the success that we had. I mean, James could have come out and said, ‘Hey, I wanna be the James I’ve always been.’

"I had to convince him that you had to be this type of James so everybody could get involved and we could achieve as a team.” 

Webb will take over as the Hotshots’ new head coach, being officially introduced as such in the same press conference as Cone with Ginebra. 

“Now he’s going to go to Jason,” said Cone. “I think he’s a much more mature player but I think Jason’s system will probably re-energize James. 

"I would not be surprised to see James step out and see a lot of the stuff he was doing before, because it’s going to be more up-tempo, more aggressive, and more analytic.” 

Cone admitted during the press conference that one of the things he least expected was to coach Ginebra one day in his career, but that’s now the case.  

He brings 18 championships, 30 finals appearances, two Grand Slams, and 26 years of coaching experience - an incredible resume.

Here’s another feat he’s proud of: getting Yap to make sacrifices for Purefoods.

Said Cone:

“That was one of my great achievements, I felt, from a coaching standpoint, and I love James for it. I truly love him for that.” –