FIBA World Cup

One champion coach to another: Tim Cone recalls encounter with Steve Kerr

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One champion coach to another: Tim Cone recalls encounter with Steve Kerr

TACTICIANS. Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tim Cone and Team USA head coach Steve Kerr.

Marko Djurica/Reuters and Lisa Marie David/Reuters

Ginebra head coach Tim Cone fondly looks back on his conversation with Warriors tactician Steve Kerr about the triangle system

MANILA, Philippines – For the longest time, Tim Cone created dynasties through his triangle offense. On the other side of the globe, Steve Kerr was orchestrating his own with a modernized motion system. 

Their coaching philosophies and Kerr’s experience with the triangle offense made for an encounter to remember. 

In a guesting at the Let it Fly podcast, Cone looked back on how he and Kerr ran into each other during the FIBA World Cup in Manila earlier this year. 

“I did get invited to a dinner in the Fort, [Erik Spoelstra] told me to come right after our practice so we ran over there, with Chot (Reyes), and lo and behold, we walked in there and there’s Steve Kerr, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Few, Grant Hill. It’s like walking into royalty,” said Cone, who was working as an assistant coach of Gilas Pilipinas at the time.

“And then, I was standing there in the middle of the room, the restaurant, by myself. And all of a sudden, somebody comes over and taps me on the shoulder. I turned around, he put out his hand, and he goes like, ‘Hi, I’m Steve Kerr.’ I was like, ‘Of course, I know who you are.'”

Kerr was the head coach of Team USA, which finished bronze in the World Cup. He is also the head tactician of the dynastic Golden State Warriors, who have reached the NBA Finals in six of the last nine seasons. 

Kerr played on a triangle system when he was playing under Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson and Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls teams, helping the famed squad win three straight titles from 1996 to 1998. 

On that night, however, Kerr was there to revisit the triangle offense through Cone’s brilliance. 

“What happened is Chip Engelland told Steve that I have been a longtime coach here and that I ran the triangle, and so Steve came over to me and literally stood in the middle of the restaurant for 25 minutes and just talked pure triangle,” Cone said. 

Engelland, one of NBA’s highly regarded shooting coaches, traced his playing roots back to the Philippines as he played for the national team, becoming the first naturalized player of the program.

Known for his shooting touch back then, Engelland’s nine years with the Philippine team from 1983 to 1992 coincided with Cone’s rise in the PBA. 

Engelland’s presence, together with Filipino-American coach Erik Spoelstra, helped Filipino coaches like Cone to connect with some of NBA’s top tacticians and executives like Kerr, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Few, and Grant Hill, who were all part of the Team USA entourage.  

“I was like, bucket list is done, I’m ready to kick it, let’s go,” Cone said.

Cone also bared that Kerr had initial thoughts about using the triangle offense when he was appointed as the Warriors’ coach in 2015 before opting for a modern motion system around lethal shooters Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, revolutionizing the sport in the process. 

“‘Cause Steve, of course, ran the triangle with Michael Jordan and the Bulls to their three championships. He told me that his first thought was to bring the triangle to the Warriors when he first took over the Warriors,” said Cone. 

“He goes, ‘It was a disaster, we were getting beat up,'” Cone stated as Kerr incorporated the triangle offense in the 2015 NBA Summer League – his first tournament as a coach. 

Kerr has won four championships as the Warriors’ coach since.

A few weeks after the World Cup, Cone led the Gilas Pilipinas in a historic golden campaign in the Asian Games through a mix of old triangle offense principles and the modern game.

Kerr, meanwhile, returned to the NBA to lead the Warriors once more with his patented offense. – Rob Andrew L. Dongiapon/Rappler.com

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