The San Mig Super Coffee Mixers might not have the best, deepest talent in the league, but they’ve got a set of players all too willing to play under a system.
Put in the coaching and leadership brilliance of Tim Cone, and what San Mig Coffee has got is a great, winning mix – err, a dominant mix.
After the last game of PBA Season 39 Wednesday night at the Big Dome, San Mig Coffee was the last team standing, basking in the glory of an epic feat.
As AZ Reid missed the last of their five game-tying three-point attempts in the final minute, the Mixers pulled through with a thrilling 92-89 win over the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters that completed their ride to immortality.
They distinguished themselves the first team to claim back-to-back Governors’ Cup crowns in 14 years, the first to score a PBA “Four-Peat” in 17 years and the first to win a PBA grand slam in 18 years.
In three years under Cone, the Mixers reigned supreme with five championships in all – a big breakthrough for a team that won only two crowns in the previous eight years or since the arrival of Yap.
They’ve suddenly become invincible with Yap starting to share much load with PJ Simon, Mark Barroca and Joe Devance. Then there were defensive master Marc Pingris and the rest playing their roles to the T.
Imports James Mays and Marqus Blakely also played their roles.
Mays helped the team reclaim the Commissioner’s Cup crown and Blakely didn’t renege on his promise to lead the Mixers to back-to-back Governors’ Cup conquests.
With these and all, Cone had had doubts and fears they won’t be able to hit the mountaintop.
“Every time that we came into a big game, I’d say this is the time it ain’t going to happen. We played with fire too much, it ain’t gonna happen,” said Cone. “But somehow, the guys found a way. We do it again, get to a Game 7 or Game 5 or even a Game 3, it ain’t gonna happen this time. The odds are not in our favor and the guys again just find a way.
“I don’t know if it was the hardest grand slam to win out of the five, but it’s got to be one of the hardest,” he added.
It should be. Consider the balance of power in the league. And consider the schedule the Mixers had to go through.
“The schedule, the consecutive games every day. We had two days off in June and somehow we figured out to make it to this last day,” said Cone.
“Just watching the journey we had and being able to watch these guys and just observe them, it was truly an honor,” Cone added.
For the record, the Mixers went through a tough grind, scrambling for a .577 mark in their grand slam run. Crispa did it at .667 in 1976 and .742 in 1983, San Miguel Beer at .704 in 1989 and Alaska at .708 in 1996.
Cone poured the credit to his import, Finals MVP winner Yap, energy guy Pingris and to the guys sitting on the farthest end of their bench. In the end, there’s no denying though that Cone was the MVP – most vital piece – in San Mig’s giant breakthrough.
It’s a feat that would surely be celebrated for a long time and looked up to by future generations.
“We’re so lucky we got coach Tim as our coach. He’s really good,” said Yap, now a well-decorated player with two previous championships under coach Ryan Gregorio.
In eight years and in 21 conferences, that’s what the Purefoods/San Mig franchise had got until Cone came along.
“He won when he didn’t have the best and deepest talent. Now, he has both and he’s invincible with no end in sight,” said Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes.
Twice beaten in the Finals this season, Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao threw praises at Cone.
“His place in history is now well entrenched,” said Guiao.
“He’s going to be a future Hall-of-Famer. He’s going to be unique in the respect that I don’t think any other coach can still get two grand slams with the way the competition has developed,” Guiao added. (SB)
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