The multi-titled mentor got good advice from his two deputies.
Gilas Pilipinas guard Kevin Alas only played nine minutes and 57 seconds in the Asian Games semifinals against China on Wednesday night. He only made two field goals. But they came at a very opportune juncture for the Philippines.
The NLEX Road Warriors guard came off the bench and sank a three-pointer from a Justin Brownlee dish with 5:39 left in the game. He cut Gilas Pilipinas' deficit to four, 69-65.
Zhao Jiwei made two points inside the paint for China. Alas immediately answered back with his a difficult scoop shot with 4:43 left. He kept Gilas Pilipinas in the fight within a margin of four points.
Brownlee did the rest.
Tim Cone sang Alas' praises after their down-to-the-wire 77-76 win.
"I thought Kevin did a great job for us," Cone told One Sports.
But it was actually his assistants, LA Tenorio and Richard del Rosario, who convinced Cone to put Alas late in the third quarter and heading to the fourth.
"They said, 'Let Kevin have some single highs. Because they're (China) out there hard pressuring, (if) we got some single highs, he can create stuff for us,'" explained Cone. "He's really the best creator on the team off the dribble, off the ball."
That's quite the remark from the seasoned tactician, considering he also has Brownlee and CJay Perez at his disposal.
Alas, however, didn't play up his quality minutes. He knew he had to make up a lot after the quarterfinals against Iran, where he missed his single field goal attempt and made three turnovers in 10 minutes.
"I played bad last game. I just have to be ready na bunutin ako ni Coach Tim. It so happened na nakapag-deliver naman tayo defensively," Alas told One Sports.
He also shared what Cone told him during a timeout.
"Sabi niya sa'kin medyo passive raw ako. He wants me to play the way I play with NLEX. Dapat kung gaano ako ka-aggressive sa NLEX," Alas revealed.
"Kung magkaroon ng pagkakataon, 'pag na-libre, titira (ako), aatake ako," he recounted. "Very grateful to coach Tim Cone na binigyan ako ng ganung encouragement na laruin kung ano 'yung laro ko."
It's been a rough road for Alas. The last time he played in a Gilas Pilipinas jersey, it was the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers. He was called up to play in the Southeast Asian Games in 2021 but opted to skip to take care of his wife Selina Dagdag, who was at the time suffering from a rare form of cancer. He was also part of the pool for the 2023 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, but a recurring ACL injury put a damper on his career. His call-up for this Asian Games was a last-minute decision.
It wasn't without sacrifice. Alas also shared a cut on his sole after their win over China.
Alas has one day to heal up before the gold medal match against Jordan this Friday.
The game will be aired live at 8 p.m. on One Sports and the Pilipinas Live app.
(With reports from Carlo Pamintuan, Paolo del Rosario, Nic Earnshaw, One Sports)