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2024 Summer Olympics

Tim Cone defies triangle critics with triumph over Latvia


The European style of basketball is often believed to be the right system for international play.

It has dominated both internationally and even in the National Basketball Association. The three-point shot is king, and now, even centers are expected to have a touch from deep.

But Tim Cone is a stubborn fellow, opting not to adapt but to perfect what some pundits say is an ‘archaic system’ – the triangle offense.

Even though the triangle has brought him a lot of success in the Philippine Basketball Association – resulting in 25 championships – there were people who said it wouldn’t be effective in the international arena.

Cone proved them wrong on Thursday morning (Manila time) when Gilas Pilipinas stunned world No. 6 Latvia in a down-to-the-wire match, taking an 89-80 victory.

And he did so with the triangle.

2024-FIBA-OQT-Gilas-def-Latvia-Tim-Cone-2 Tim Cone defies triangle critics with triumph over Latvia 2024 Summer Olympics Basketball Gilas Pilipinas News  - philippine sports news

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“I guess I’m still a dinosaur at heart, playing the triangle,” he quipped to a reporter during the post-game press conference.

The triangle offense is so complex that it takes years for a player to master. Moreover, not all players or teams are suited for the triangle offense, particularly those without skilled passers who struggle with decision-making.

That is why, during the very first day of Gilas practice early this year, Cone emphasized to the entire Gilas pool that the triangle was here to stay and that he would do his best to teach it to them.

“When I came into camp with the players, I said to them that this is what I know best, this is what I can teach best, so we will live and die with this,” he shared.

#ReadMore  Kai Sotto commits to Gilas Asia Cup, OQT teams

Of course, there was a time when Cone doubted whether his system had become passé.

Chot Reyes’ dribble-drive offense brought success to both Gilas and TNT during the 2010s.

On the other hand, Tab Baldwin’s approach – which integrates both motion and continuity offense – was believed to be the future of Philippine basketball.

“It gets a lot of criticism, especially when it was used with the New York Knicks. People really started to doubt it. Even I left it for a couple of years because everybody must be right, right?” Cone recalled about the time when he diverged from the triangle during the late 2010s.

He added, “If everybody is saying that it is a bad offense, they must be right. But I did as much as I could for two years, and I still went back to it

“It’s been my best friend ever since.”

2024-FIBA-OQT-Gilas-def-Latvia-Kai-Sotto-vs-Strelnieks Tim Cone defies triangle critics with triumph over Latvia 2024 Summer Olympics Basketball Gilas Pilipinas News  - philippine sports news

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With Phil Jackson long retired, only a few coaches run the system created by Sam Barry and perfected by Tex Winter.

For this generation, running the triangle seems weird or even new. That is why Cone is still running it – not just because it’s his bread and butter, but also to re-introduce the system of his late mentor Winter.

“People aren’t as familiar with it now compared to fifteen to twenty years ago when Chicago and LA were running it. I’m enjoying running it, and I’ve always enjoyed running it. I’m just proud that we were able to do something with it,” said Cone, noting that it’s also the system that helps alleviate the defensive deficiencies of Filipinos.

“I’ve been playing the triangle for thirty-plus years. I was mentored by Tex Winter. So I just enjoy living his legacy and keeping it going. It’s an offense that I believe in.”

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