Tim Cone himself knows how it’s like being in the crosshairs of the Basketball Coaches Association of the Philippines.
The coaches’ group has long been against the practice of PBA teams hiring foreigners as head coach, and the American — who has spent almost his entire life in the Philippines — was no exception.
“We had the big BCAP case which went all the way to the Supreme Court,” Cone recalled in Tiebreaker Vodcasts’ Coaches Unfiltered, presented by SMART and supported by Mighty Sports.
Cone, in 1989, took over as the head coach of Alaska. But, according to league stats chief Fidel Mangonon III, he only lasted for four games.
And that’s because of the coaches’ opposition to his hiring.
“I was actually banned from the PBA for one conference,” Cone remembered as he sat out the 1989 Reinforced Conference.
“I sat from the stands the whole time.”
Eventually, Cone managed to get back in the league. The ban was lifted after he married his long-time Filipina girlfriend, Cristina Viaplana.
With that, he gained permanent resident status, and he does not need to acquire a work permit from the Department of Labor and Employment anymore.
Cone, though, clarified in an interview with Quinito Henson of Philippine Star in 2017 that he did not get married just to regain his job.
“The court decision came down in April and Cristina and I were set to be married in May,” Cone was quoted as saying.
“We decided to postpone our wedding to August so it wouldn’t seem like I got married to resume coaching in the PBA. Cristina and I had been dating seven years before we were married.”
As he had finally gotten back doing what he loves, Cone shifted all his focus to coaching. Eventually, he would steer Alaska to the top of the 1991 Third Conference to win the franchise’s first PBA title.
And that would be the first of his 22 championships, which is the most in league history – just five short of San Miguel Beer’s total number of crowns.
Cone, moreover, is the only coach with two Grand Slam feats under his belt. He won his first with Alaska in 1996, and then got his second in 2014 with San Mig Coffee.
As he looked back on that rough time, Cone remembered all those who helped him pull through, most especially Alaska owner Wilfred Steven Uytengsu.
“I had some real controversial times–the BCAP was something he could just let go of me and say, ‘Never mind I don’t wanna battle this.’
“But he battled it all the way to the Supreme Court. And so, he wasn’t just a great mentor, but a great friend as well,” Cone said.
As for BCAP, it succeeded in its aim of protecting the welfare of the Filipino coaches when it got a favorable ruling from the Court of Appeals in 2002.
There, the court ruling prohibits foreigners from taking head coaching jobs in the PBA, a landmark victory for the group that has fought appointments of aliens for years.
Aside from Cone, BCAP strongly opposed the late, great Ron Jacobs coaching San Miguel, as well as both Bill Bayno and Paul Woolpert for Talk N Text.
And because of that ruling, coaching in Asia’s pioneering pro league now falls under Article 40 of the Labor Code.
The rule says that working permits can only be issued “after a determination of the non-availability of a person in the Philippines who is competent, able, and willing at the time of application to perform the services for which the alien is desired.”
However, BCAP – which had Yeng Guiao, Alfrancis Chua, and Chito Narvasa as former presidents – made a couple of exceptions to the rule.
It won’t oppose appointments of foreign coaches with enough experience and knowledge, which they could teach to local coaches via “transfer of technology” set-up.
Deemed qualified for such exemptions are former NBA head coaches, as well as NCAA Division I coaches who have reached the Final Four.
BCAP has indeed been doing its best to protect the Filipino coaches as it fully believes in the capabilities of homegrown mentors.