MANILA, Philippines—A start of a new era for Alaska begins when the 37th PBA season opens Sunday.
The Aces had a topsy-turvy off-season after parting ways with their long-time coach Tim Cone. But amid the abrupt turn of events, one thing remained.
“We will continue the tradition,” said new coach Joel Banal. “ For 25 years, Alaska has been winning. A chapter has been closed and another has opened, hopefully with another 25 years of good basketball.”
With Banal, Cone’s assistant for many years, manning the sidelines, Alaska’s system will technically run the same plays.
But for Banal, whom LA Tenorio referred to as a “Cone clone” for his similarities with the celebrated American mentor, said that he will inject some of his plays as the season progresses.
“In a lot of ways we’re the same, but in a lot of ways we’re different. Coach Tim likes structure in offense and defense, I’d like to inject a little unstructuredness—and that’s a glaring difference.”
Alaska will bring back almost the same team from last year, with Smart Gilas standout Mac Baracael as a key addition.
“It’s not been easy [with Baracael] because the system he has been playing under is different. Hopefully we can find the position he can be comfortable with,” said Banal.
The Aces also beefed up its backcourt with a pair of heady point guards in Eric Salamat and Julius Pasculado.
Salamat is no stranger to big time moments as he spearheaded Ateneo’s three-peat in the UAAP.
“Eric has been practicing with us from the start, and he’s a very smart player. He already knows the triangle in three weeks,” said Banal.
For some, Alaska may not be the same without Cone but for Banal and his players, but the Aces are the same old force to reckon with.
“Hopefully our fans will be patient. We will get there to that excellence that the past chapter has manifested. Hopefully it’s not going to be too long.”
Source: Mark Vincent C. Giongco, Philippine Daily Inquirer