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2024 Summer Olympics

Tim Cone reflects on OQT: ‘Almost’ not good enough for Gilas


When Tim Cone was named head coach of Gilas Pilipinas Men, the Philippines was still in the midst of closing out a cycle.

It was six months away from a FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

Typically, federations only reboot their programs once a cycle ends.

FIBA-WC-PHI-vs.-CHN-Chot-Reyes-1543-1 Tim Cone reflects on OQT: 'Almost' not good enough for Gilas 2024 Summer Olympics Basketball Gilas Pilipinas News  - philippine sports news

The sudden resignation of Chot Reyes after the FIBA World Cup 2023, though, led to a huge gap that Cone tried to fill.

And he did so by speeding up the process.

Unlike past iterations of Gilas, Cone’s program was different.

Reyes tried a plug-and-play, pull-out system composed of PBA veterans – mostly from his team TNT – while Tab Baldwin had a solid core of prospects in his team.

2023-FIBA-WC-Chot-Reyes Tim Cone reflects on OQT: 'Almost' not good enough for Gilas 2024 Summer Olympics Basketball Gilas Pilipinas News  - philippine sports news

During Reyes’s time, practices were held once a week a month prior to competition, with the players being pulled out of their mother teams at most two weeks before the tournament.

2021-fiba-oqt-gilas-tab-baldwin Tim Cone reflects on OQT: 'Almost' not good enough for Gilas 2024 Summer Olympics Basketball Gilas Pilipinas News  - philippine sports news

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Meanwhile, Baldwin’s program was never fully executed after untimely dismissals.

What Cone brought to the table was a core 12, and a schedule that would align with both FIBA’s and the PBA’s calendars.

The core 12 are Justin Brownlee, Dwight Ramos, Kai Sotto, AJ Edu, Kevin Quiambao, Scottie Thompson, Chris Newsome, Calvin Oftana, CJ Perez, Jamie Malonzo, and June Mar Fajardo.

He would later add Japeth Aguilar and Mason Amos to the extended pool.

“The whole part of bringing this particular program together, which is different from what we had in the World Cup, is the fact that we will hopefully keep these guys together for the next three to four years going into the next World Cup,” he said after Gilas bowed out of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament 2024-Riga.

2024-FIBA-OQT-Gilas-vs-Brazil-Tim-Cone Tim Cone reflects on OQT: 'Almost' not good enough for Gilas 2024 Summer Olympics Basketball Gilas Pilipinas News  - philippine sports news

(c) FIBA.basketball

So far, it’s still a work in progress, says Cone.

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The Philippines is currently 2-0 in the FIBA Asia Cup 2025 Qualifiers while putting up a gallant stand in the OQT.

They defeated world no. 6 Latvia, 89-90, and only lost by two to world no. 23 Georgia, 94-96, to advance to the semifinals.

However, Cone and Gilas were given a reality check by world no. 12 Brazil by way of a 71-60 win that ended their Paris bid.

“It’s hard to talk about this after a loss, but it’s a growth experience for us. It’s kind of like a ‘now we know’ moment – that we know we can compete. So, how can we take that next step and not just compete but also win?” he wondered.

“Playing in these kinds of tournaments, playing three games in four days… It just gets harder and harder every game. These are things that we need to adjust to,” continued the winningest head coach in PBA history.

“But like I said, we didn’t expect to be here, but once we were, we expected to win.”

2024-FIBA-OQT-Gilas-vs-Brazil-Kai-Sotto-and-Mason-Amos Tim Cone reflects on OQT: 'Almost' not good enough for Gilas 2024 Summer Olympics Basketball Gilas Pilipinas News  - philippine sports news

(c) FIBA.basketball

In the OQT, Gilas were without Thompson, Malonzo, and Edu. Compounding their woes was Sotto suffering a bruised rib that forced him out of the Brazil game.

Despite being shorthanded, though, Cone offered no excuses.

Instead, the decorated coach firmly believes that they can be on par with the world’s best. They can compete with teams heavily armed with either current or NBA players.

It’s just a matter of doing it.

“The bottom line is, we just weren’t good enough tonight, and we have to be better. We always tell ourselves that ‘almost’ is not good enough. Almost winning, almost getting there — it’s not enough. We have to find a way to get over the hump and actually get there. Tonight, we didn’t do that,” he lamented.

“It’s an incredible disappointment for us, and we are not going to jump up and down and say ‘yay, everyone is proud of us.’ Hopefully, it doesn’t affect our mindset, and we can keep pushing and move forward.”

For now though, Cone will continue perfecting his program with the next two windows of the Asia Cup qualis happening in November and February.

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