News & Updates

Coach Tim Cone: ‘We Expected to Win’

The Olympic Qualifying Tournament at FIBA brought a tough but enlightening experience for Gilas Pilipinas. On July 6, 2024, in Riga, the Philippines faced Brazil, the world’s 12th-ranked team. Despite their valiant effort, Gilas fell short. In the post-match press conference, Coach Tim Cone shared his thoughts on the game, the team’s journey, and their plans moving forward.

‘We didn’t expect to be here, but when we got here, we expected to win.’

“It’s funny, we didn’t expect to be here but when we got here, we expected to win. It’s very painful that we didn’t… There’s a reason Brazil is the 12th-ranked team in the world and they proved it tonight,” Cone told reporters at the post-match conference in Riga. 

According to Cone, Kai Sotto’s absence played a huge part in their loss against Brazil.  

“We don’t want to make excuses but losing Kai (Sotto) was big for us because it took away our depth in the front line and forced June Mar Fajardo to have to overplay minutes and that kind of mushroomed all right there,” said Cone. 

“I think we just kind of panicked a little bit, we started doing a lot of one-on-one, we weren’t moving the ball around like we usually do, we just didn’t do our best tonight. We started out strong but we just couldn’t sustain it with their physicality. And again we were lacking a big (man), we had to overplay our front line. More than anything, June Mar got really tired of having to battle the numbers. Number 51 and number 6, those two guys were ganging up on him and rotating on him. It was a tough battle for him, being there by himself.”

Why was Kai Sotto absent during the Philippines-Brazil Game? 

During the game between the Philippines and Georgia on the previous day, Sotto was fouled by Georgia’s Joe Thomasson during a shot attempt and hit Sotto with his shoulder, causing Sotto to fall on the floor. After the impact, another big man from Georgia Goga Bitadze fell with his full body weight on Sotto. 

Sotto was immediately rushed to the hospital. X-ray imaging showed he fractured no bones but Sotto said the injury hurt a lot. 

Nevertheless, Coach Cone said there was no excuse. 

“The point is we weren’t just good enough tonight and we got to be better. We’re trying to tell ourselves that “almost” is not good enough. It’s not a way to get over the hump and get there. Tonight, we didn’t do that,” said Cone. 

“We’re hoping to keep these guys together over the next three to four years going into the next World Cup. It’s a growth to experience for us, it’s a ‘now we know’ moment, now we know we can compete. (But) how can we get that next step of not just competing but winning, and then playing these kinds of tournaments, playing three or four games a day, it just gets harder and harder and these are things we need to adjust to. We didn’t expect to be here, but when we got here, we expected to win… We need to keep pushing and move forward,” added Cone.

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