Marc Pingris is among the first players that come to mind whenever the San Mig Coffee crew that captured a rare Grand Slam feat in 2013-14 gets brought up in a discussion.
He was the tireless workhorse who inspired the Coffee Mixers, which also featured two-time Most Valuable Player James Yap and PJ Simon and was mentored by coach Tim Cone.
Cone, of course, ran the vaunted Triangle offense in his team, and that led to a total of five championships.
And for the most accomplished coach in PBA history with 22 titles, Pingris was one of those guys who ran the system by heart, reminding him of Bong Hawkins during his time with Alaska.
Both Hawkins and Pingris were able to steer their squads to grand slam feats.
“He was one of those guys like Bong Hawkins,” Cone said during his talk about the innovations of the Triangle offense in the Hoop Coaches International Webinar hosted by Blackwater Saturday.
“That, if you didn’t do it if you were doing stuff on your own, Marc and Bong would be the two guys to be telling you immediately you better get back in line with what you’re doing.”
But believe it or not, Pingris, who’s one of the league’s well-loved figures, did not buy into it at first.
Cone, who arrived at Purefoods in 2011 after 22 long years with Alaska, recalled that the 6-foot-4 bruiser was not initially receptive of the Triangle, to the point that he sought a trade elsewhere.
“I remember the story of our general manager Rene Pardo. Mr. Pardo told me that one month into when I first came to Purefoods, he called up Mr. Pardo and said ‘I can’t learn the Triangle’,” he said.
“‘I wanna be traded’. I never knew this, I didn’t know this until a year later or two years later. And Marc said ‘I just can’t learn, I refuse to try to learn’.”
For Cone, resentment has been there among players, especially at the start of his implementation of the Triangle. And he remembers the same thing with Jojo Lastimosa with the Milkmen.
But eventually, the 1988 Rookie of the Year grew to love the system, and that allowed him to win 10 championships with Alaska from 1991-98 — highlighted by a Grand Slam in 1996.
“One of the guys who were initially resistant was Jojo Lastimosa. And he ends up being probably one of the top three or maybe even the top one best executer of the Triangle,” Cone said.
And that was the very same thing that happened to Pingris, who has won a total of nine PBA titles so far.
“Mr. Pardo just said, ‘Just give Coach Tim more time, get yourself a chance, you’ll get it.’ And Marc, he just absolutely loved the Triangle and he became incredibly good at it,” Cone said proudly.
For Cone, the resentment that eventually turns into fondness among the players is among the beauties of the famed Triangle system, since it develops camaraderie within the ones who run it.
“There’s always a little bit of resentment in the beginning to run the Triangle. But one thing I can honestly say from the bottom of my heart is when somebody plays the Triangle with this, whether they’re a player or a bench player or a local player or import when they left us, they always left saying ‘I love the Triangle. I love being a part of the Triangle’. There’s such a real camaraderie about the Triangle. That’s the beauty of it all,” the 62-year-old said.
“Everybody’s involved all the time. It was always developing great camaraderie and great chemistry.”