Mendoza: Cone staking his prized poise

MAYBE, you haven’t noticed but four American coaches had actually battled in the just-ended semifinals of the PBA Philippine Cup at the Angeles University Foundation gym in Pampanga.

One was a Filipino-American in Topex Robinson of Phoenix while the three were true-blue Americans — Tim Cone of Barangay Ginebra, Norman Black of Meralco and Mark Dickel of TNT.

Cone prevailed over Black and Dickel over Robinson by similar 3-2 victories.

The Finals will begin on Sunday in a best-of-seven affair for the most coveted crown, held the last five years by San Miguel Beer but had expectedly lost it because its anchor (June Mar Fajardo) was in sick bay.

Bong Ravena is TNT coach in name only. It’s Dickel calling the shots from Day One.

What’s on the dotted line is not always followed. A practice as old as, well, prostitution.

I had misjudged the set-up at TNT: It’s Dickel’s word over Ravena and never them as a duet in coaching chores. Players can’t serve two masters at the same time. Ravena speaks to media only for show.

Dickel ditching Robinson was almost expected.

TNT’s 91-81 series clincher over Phoenix Friday flushed out defensive flaws from Robinson’s armor.

While TNT’s win proved Dickel right with his system, it effectively exposed Robinson’s rawness in battlefield tactics.

But that’s no reason to whine now for Robinson. Robsinson steering the Fuel Masters to the semis was more than a feat already for a coach barely warming up his seat. Robinson’s potential cannot be overemphasized. He’ll have his day in due time.

Robinson could learn a thing or two from Cone, whose authorship of Ginebra’s 83-80 clincher over Meralco Friday was a masterpiece only a Cone could dish off.

Using Stanley Pringle as decoy, Cone, in the timeout huddle, made Scottie Thompson the designated shooter.

It paid off, with a wide-open Thompson, receiving a pass in the corner from Prince Caperal, firing the winning three with a sixth of a second left.

Can Dickel dice it up against Cone? Uh-oh.

In Cone, Dickel is facing the winningest coach in the country. Cone has 22 PBA titles. Dickel zero.

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