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Cone privileged to coach in back-to-back 50k crowd games

Fans quickly charged through the Philippine Arena's hardcourt after Ginebra finally clinched the title while some arena staff manning the crowd control, right, tried to restore order.
By Ivan Saldajeno

BOCAUE--Bringing in 50,000 people inside the Philippine Arena for a PBA game is a pleasing site.

But Friday night was totally different for a couple of reasons.

It was a finals game--the rubber match at that, and everybody was there because Ginebra, the perennial crowd darling, was on the verge of clinching the title.

And the Barangay simply did it, bringing the majority of a record-setting 54,086 people into a frenzy that many even invaded the hardwood to join them in celebration. The hardcourt invasion forced the league to go away with the traditional net-cutting as it could not open a space for the ladders to be placed.

"It is unfathomable that you can play in front of 50,000-plus people," Coach Tim Cone said after Ginebra's title-clinching win.

He further said, "That's just amazing. Nobody's coaching basketball in front of 54,000 people. It just blows my mind."

The massive crowd record happened just two nights after the PBA brought in 53,642 people in Game 6, the first potential clincher for the Barangay.

"That's such a privilege," Cone said on coaching in front back-to-back 50,000-strong crowds.

In fact, he wants to share this experience to Fil-American NBA coach Erik Spoelstra.

"I'm gonna be going to a family reunion in [United] States. I'm supposed to watch the [Golden State] Warriors-[Miami] Heat game in San Francisco, so I'll get a chance to see Erik Spoelstra. I can't wait to tell Erik that I just got to coach in front of 54,000 people," Cone bared his plans. "He's been in the NBA Finals, but he's never coached in front of 50,000 people, so I got one up on him. It's awesome. I'm so proud of that."

However, Cone admitted that panic began to sneak in when Meralco went on a huge comeback that cut what was once a 20-point cushion down to four with 40.3 seconds to go.

"We didn't [stay composed]," he further said.

He also said that he got lucky that the comeback came a bit too late.

"It's just that the clock ran out. If we played a 50-minute game, we gotta lose that game. Luckily, it was only 48 minutes," Cone continued.

In the end, Cone is happy that his team did not disappoint its fans.

"I'm so happy that we made the Ginebra fans happy. That's the best part of it all," he said.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno