Before dominating the basketball sidelines, Cone battled a higher Court

Tim Cone

Tim Cone. Photo by Tristan Tamayo/

Tim Cone is known for the victories he has won on the basketball court. After all, he is the PBA’s all-time leader in championships won among coaches.

But in a battle to get on the bench, he needed to win in a different court.

His initial appointment as Alaska mentor in 1989 was contested by the Basketball Coaches Association of the Philippines (BCAP), Cone was kept off the bench by the Supreme Court.

“I was actually banned from the PBA for one conference,” Cone told the Coaches Unfiltered podcast. “Through 1990, we had the big BCAP case which went all the way to the Supreme Court. That [precedent is] what they’ve been using for other foreign coaches who came in, but it started with me.”

According to Supreme Court documents, BCAP questioned the Department of Labor and Employment’s issuance of an alien employment permit to Cone in February of that year citing Article 40 in the Labor Code that allows the hiring of a foreigner only after “a determination of the non-availability of a person in the Philippines who is competent, able and willing at the time of application to perform the services for which the alien is desired.”

Alaska came to Cone’s defense and filed a motion for reconsideration and two more supplemental motions.

The Supreme Court sided with the BCAP and sidelined the then 33-year-old Cone. Assistant coach Chot Reyes took the reins and led Alaska to a third place finish in the 1991 All-Filipino Conference.

It wasn’t easy for Cone to watch his validity scrutinized and questioned. Though he was an American, he had lived and studied in Baler, Quezon, for most of his childhood.

He would eventually marry Cristina Viaplana and in the process gain permanent resident status.

Cone finally returned to the league, won his first title in the 1991 Third Conference and carved a career every other coach can only dream of. He’s the only coach in PBA history to win two Grand Slams and lone tactician to have won four straight titles twice.

And Cone said he owes a lot to Alaska owner Wilfred Uytengsu.

“[H]e taught me so much about the idea of discipline and work ethic. I had some really down times, I had some real controversial times. The BCAP [issue] was something he could [have] just let go of … and say ‘never mind, I don’t wanna battle this,’” Cone said. “But he battled it all the way to the Supreme Court and so he wasn’t just a great mentor but a great friend as well.”

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