MANILA, Philippines – It's hard for Marc Pingris to forget the kind of coach who was not only a mentor, but was also a father figure to him. And in his trying times at present, Pingris can't help but yearn for the guidance of former coach Tim Cone.
"Ako honestly talaga nahihirapan na rin ako minsan. Nahihirapan ako na hindi ko makuha 'yung laro ko ngayon pati yung last conference. 'Di ko talaga makuha 'yung laro ko. Hindi ko alam bakit," the 34-year-old Pingris rued after the Star Hotshots dropped their opening game, 90-86, to the Meralco Bolts Wednesday, February 10 in the 2016 PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
(Honestly, it’s already difficult for me sometimes. It's hard for me that I can't get my game back, even last conference. I just can't get it back. I don't know why.)
"'Di ko alam kung malaking epektong nawala sa akin si Coach Tim Cone. Siya kasi minsan 'yung pag pangit 'yung laro ko, siya 'yung kumakausap sa akin na ito yung gawin mo," Pingris added.
(I don't know if it's because losing Coach Tim Cone had a huge effect on me. When there were times that I wouldn't play well before, he was the one who would talk to me and tell me what to do.)
"Minsan talagang nag one-on-one kami (bago ng) practice. [Sinasabi niya sa akin] kailangan maging agresibo ka, ganito yung gawin mo sa team, bigyan mo sila ng energy."
(Sometimes we talked one-on-one before practice and he'd tell me to be aggressive, do this with the team, give them energy.)
The veteran big man settled for just 8 points and 5 rebounds off the bench in 31 minutes on the floor Wednesday. He had limited touches, going just 3-of-4 from the field and two-of-4 from the free throw line.
Pingris, also a Gilas Pilipinas mainstay, has been struggling to regain his game since the Philippine Cup – a sign he is likely still adjusting to new head coach Jason Webb, who is in his second conference with the team.
Pingris could not hide the longing he felt for the coach who led the then-San Mig Coffee Mixers to a Grand Slam in 2014 and has since moved on to coach Barangay Ginebra this season.
"As a dad siguro kailangan ko ng nag-ga-guide din sa akin. Kumbaga hindi lang ako 'yung nag-ga-guide sa mga teammates ko. Kailangan ko rin ng magbibigay ng advice sa akin minsan dahil ako, talagang hirap na hirap din akong maglaro ngayon eh," Pingris explained. "Nami-miss ko rin 'yung mga ganun kasi kay Coach Ryan (Gregorio) dati. Ganun 'yung nangyari sa amin dati, kinakausap din ako."
(As a dad, I think, I need someone to guide me. Not just me guiding my teammates. I need someone to give me advice as well sometimes, because I'm really having a hard time playing right now. I miss that, too, from Coach Ryan. He was like that with me before, too.)
Known as an emotionally motivated player, Pingris is obviously searching for meaningful, inspiring conversation to fire him up. But that doesn't mean Webb does not talk to him.
"Hindi ko sinasabing hindi ako kinakausap ni Coach Jason. Kinakausap niya rin ako pero iba talaga si Coach Tim Cone, na konting pagkakamali ko lang talaga, parang basic, magsimula ka sa ganito, ganyan gawin mo," he explained.
(I'm not saying Coach Jason doesn't talk to me. He does, but Coach Tim Cone is different. Just a small mistake, something basic, and he'd tell me right away to start here and do this or that.)
Pingris shared how Cone, who coached the Star franchise for 4 seasons and won 5 titles with them, approached him during a tune-up game versus Barangay Ginebra.
"Sabi niya miss na miss niya na ko. ‘I miss you so much, Ping.’ Gumanon. Parang naiiyak nga ako nung time na 'yun e. So sabi ko rin sa kanya 'I miss you, coach,'" Pingris shared. "Sana someday kahit di ako makapaglaro sayo sana magkasama ulit tayo. Hindi ko alam bakit ganun. Iba yung dating sa akin ni Coach Tim."
(He told me he misses me very much. "I miss you so much, Ping." I felt like crying that time. So I told him I missed him too. I told him that I hope someday, even if I don't play for you, we'd be together again. I don't know why it's like that. Coach Tim is just different.)
Pingris averaged 9.5 points and 6.1 rebounds in the past Philippine Cup. But it's not just him who's struggling.
The Hotshots, too, are going through growing pains under a new system after 4 years of running Cone's triangle. Their woes continued against the Bolts after they blew an early 14-point lead and had a meltdown in the fourth quarter.
"Sobrang big challenge sa amin 'to," Pingris noted. "Kailangan namin tulungan si Coach Jason at kailangan niya rin kaming tulungan. Hindi namin kailangang pabayaan si Coach Jason kasi kung ano 'yung pinapagawa niya kailangan gawin din namin."
(This is a big challenge to us. We need to help Coach Jason and he needs to help us, too. We can't leave Coach Jason alone because we need to follow his instructions.)