Entering the 41st season, the story of Purefoods, a storied franchise with 13 championships and 27 Finals appearances in 27 years in the PBA, turns over a new leaf.

Purefoods’ time with the legendary Coach Tim Cone was nothing short of magical. It was a dream come true for the players and, most especially, for the long-time, die-hard fans of the franchise. Five titles and a Grand Slam run, what more could they ask for? It was a dynasty and nobody in his right mind would think that Coach Tim would handle another team other than Purefoods.

So long, Coach Tim. (Photo Credit: gmanews.tv)

So long, Coach Tim. // gmanews.tv

But surprise, surprise. Not long after Purefoods ended their season without a title, they were faced with another major setback. Coach Tim to Ginebra. Again, I repeat, Coach Tim to Ginebra. Yes, it’s old news already but it still doesn’t sound right. The reactions just as the news broke out were much worse, believe me.

Now, months have passed, the storm has died down and everyone is ready to move forward. It’s the most logical thing to do after a heartbreak, right?

But before we take a look into what’s in store for the future of the Hotshots as they embark on a new journey, let’s have a quick recap of how they fared in their last season with Coach Tim Cone.

Season 40 Recap: Grand Slam defense failed

2014-2015 Philippine Cup

After winning four-straight, a lot of people expected Purefoods (now known as the STAR Hotshots) to continue its winning run. They still had the best coach in the PBA in Tim Cone and the Grand Slam core was still intact. However, they had to hurdle some obstacles along the way. The first one was Ian Sangalang‘s ACL injury. The second was being relegated to the 7th seed after the eliminations due to the FIBA-style quotient rule. This led them to face the Meralco Bolts in the quarterfinals with a twice-to-win disadvantage.

At the end of the elimination round, shown below are some key stats for the STAR Hotshots. It can be seen that they remained a below-average team in terms of shooting, rebounding, and passing.

PH CUP ’14-’15
STAR 85.6 (12th) 50.0% (6th) 49.7% (7th) 49.9% (9th) 14.9% (7th) 96.5 (9th) 96.8 (7th)


But nobody counted out the Hotshots then as they had a reputation of turning things up when it matters most – during the playoffs. There was one point in their last game against Meralco where Coach Tim tried to rally his boys to a comeback. The game clock continued to tick but the run never came. As the final buzzer sounded, the Hotshots’ championship run also came to an end.

2015 Commissioner’s Cup

In the Commissioner’s Cup, the Hotshots were very eager to reclaim the top spot but their campaign started off on the wrong foot because of import problems (Marqus Blakely to Daniel Orton to Denzel Bowles). Despite that, they managed to end the eliminations with an 8-3 record (3rd place).

STAR 90.2 (10th) 52.4% (1st) 53.7% (1st) 52.5% (4th) 15.7% (12th) 101.9 (4th) 95.0 (1st)


They shot the ball well and made their presence felt inside the shaded lane. A lot of this can be attributed to their imports (Blakely 14.0 RPG, Orton 12.7 RPG, Bowles 15.2 RPG). Over-all, it was a pretty good conference for the team. It was just unfortunate that they had to face the red-hot Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters in the semi-finals, 3-1.

2015 Governors’ Cup

After two failed attempts in defending their titles, they had one last shot in the Governors’ Cup. For a stroke of luck or maybe more of a marketing strategy, they formally changed their name to the “STAR Hotshots” and changed their uniforms as well. But the change did not have a significant effect on the team’s performance as they finished the eliminations with a sub-par 6-5 record (5th).

STAR 86.7 (12th) 53.4% (1st) 50.2% (5th) 51.9% (6th) 15.4% (11th) 105.8 (3rd) 102.7 (5th)

Entering the playoffs, they ran over the GlobalPort Batang Pier (by 53 points in Game 1). They looked good entering the semi-finals series against Alaska. Unfortunately, they went up against a much better team that knew how to play them. It was Alaska who ended STAR’s season without a championship, marking the Hotshots’ failure to defend any of their titles from their Grand Slam run.

A new chapter unfolds: Webb era

In all honesty, it was an “okay” season for the STAR Hotshots. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad at all. After four-straight titles, they could afford to have an average season, right? Fatigue can take a toll on any team and the early season departure of Ian Sangalang definitely affected their game last season. But it certainly did not mean Coach Tim was on the way out. Nobody saw it coming.

Welcome to Purefoods, Coach Jason! (Photo Credit: Paolo Papa, Sports 5)

Welcome to Purefoods, Coach Jason! // Paolo Papa, Sports 5

But here they are, in a new beginning, under a young coach in Jason Webb. This marks the end of the “Triangle” in Purefoods to be replaced by a fast-paced style of play according to the rookie coach.

When I came in, whatever I’m gonna do is gonna be true to me. For those who remembered my short playing career, I’m very aggressive, high intensity. So it’s going to be something like that (for the team),” – Coach Jason Webb via Interaksyon.com

Aggressiveness and intensity. Run and gun. Worlds apart from the structured Triangle that has been a part of Purefoods’ system for several years now.

A lot of things will change for the STAR Hotshots. As an example, they are hovering around the 11th and 12th spot in terms of pace last season. Under the leadership of Coach Jason Webb, expect this to change and be somewhere along the numbers of Rain or Shine and GlobalPort.

A new Coach and a new system means exciting times are ahead for the STAR Hotshots.

Current Roster

Here’s how the STAR Hotshots’ roster looks right now:

STAR Hotshots' Roster. 2015-2016 Season.

STAR Hotshots’ Roster. 2015-2016 Season. *Part of the reserve/injury list is Lester Alvarez

After all the trade rumors and the eventual departure of Joe Devance to Ginebra, the STAR roster is still a solid one. In exchange for Devance, the Hotshots got young and promising players in Ronald Pascual and Jake Pascual. The STAR Hotshots were also able to beef up their front line by acquiring the services of Norbert Torres in the 2015 PBA Draft. Adding additional fire power to STAR’s big-man rotation is the returning Ian Sangalang.

Not to mention, STAR’s Big 3 of James Yap, Marc Pingris, and PJ Simon are still there and are very eager to prove that they can lead their team to another title. Also integral to Coach Webb’s run and gun system are STAR’s dynamic guards Justin Melton, Alex Mallari, and Mark Barroca.

Team Strengths


With a new system and a new coach, the STAR Hotshots will be a hard team to scout. In recent seasons, teams already had an idea of what the Hotshots’ offense would look like. Although it was not a guarantee that they would have the Hotshots’ number, they knew how the offense would flow and where the shots would most likely be taken.

Right now, the system that Coach Webb plans to run as STAR’s head coach is a free-flowing, run-and-gun type of offense. Players will have more freedom to do their own thing and this will be to their advantage. Just take a look at Rain or Shine. At any given day, anyone can step up and contribute and surprise the opposing team – which can easily happen to STAR once they get a grip of Coach Webb’s new system.


What’s a good system if you don’t have the right pieces, right? Luckily for the STAR Hotshots, they have the pieces to run the fast-paced offense Coach Webb wants.

First and foremost, they have two of the best shot creators in the league today in James Yap and PJ Simon. Although both players are not getting any younger, they are still one of the best scorers in the PBA. Both players were somewhat caged in the system of Coach Tim Cone but they fully embraced it and it benefited the whole team’s cause. But now, they will be tasked once more to do what they do best – to score. Remember how James Yap, the 2-time MVP, dominated the league under Coach Ryan Gregorio? Maybe we’ll witness that kind of James Yap this season as his career takes a fresh new start, especially in the Philippine Cup where there are no reinforcements. He can once again show everybody that he still is one of the top local players in the league today. According to his former teammate Roger Yap, James Yap will be able to regain his old form this coming season.

“Sa totoo si James, hindi pa matanda ‘yun. Thirty two pa lang ‘yun, iyan ang peak na edad eh. Maalaga rin (siya) sa katawan. Kaya pa niya ‘yan. Madami pang player na pahihirapan ‘yan. Bigyan lang ng tamang oras at kumpiyansa ‘yan, I am sure he can be as lethal as he was before.” – Roger Yap via Spin.ph

James Yap's MVP days with Coach Ryan Gregorio. Good Times. (Photo Credit: Nuki Sabio, PBA)

James Yap’s MVP days with Coach Ryan Gregorio. Good Times. // Nuki Sabio, PBA

As I’ve mentioned earlier, there is Mark Barroca, Justin Melton, and Alex Mallari. It’s a no-brainer. These players, with the talent and athletic ability that they have, are a perfect-fit to run Coach Webb’s new system.

And with the departure of old man Mick Pennisi (good luck with him again in Barako! Lol!) and the acquisition of young blood in the front line, the implementation of the run-and-gun will be a lot easier.

Team Weaknesses


Did I just make a mistake and type the same heading once again? Nope. Not at all. What’s considered as STAR’s strength is also one of their main weakness entering this season.

Why? Simple answer: everything takes time. The new system will not click in a snap for the Hotshots. Some people may say that they had the full offseason to practice it. But in reality, those practices can’t fully simulate an actual game.

Coach Webb and the rest of the Hotshots can only hope right now that things will go smoothly with them and that his players can quickly familiarize themselves with the strategies he has in mind.


With a run-and-gun system, outside shooting will be the biggest question mark to STAR’s game.

Here are there numbers last season from deep:  2014-2015 Philippine Cup – 28.8% (8th), 2015 Commissioner’s Cup – 32.6 (3rd), and 2015 Governors’ Cup – 31.6 (7th). Also shown below is their shot chart per conference for last season:

STAR Hotshots' Shot Chart 2014-2015 Season. (L-R: Phil Cup, Comms Cup, Govs Cup)

STAR Hotshots’ Shot Chart 2014-2015 Season. (L-R: Phil Cup, Comms Cup, Govs Cup)

The Hotshots have shown that they can hit that outside shot as shown by their numbers in the Commissioner’s Cup last year. But for their new system to be effective, they must be able to consistently hit those outside shots. Also, it would not hurt if they attempt more threes from the corners and right wing as these are their sweet spots.

Possible X-Factor: Team Attitude

What’s a good system with the right players if the players themselves don’t buy into it? For the STAR Hotshots, this will be the most critical thing that could affect their success in Coach Jason Webb’s first year as Head Coach. Will the veterans embrace all the changes that a rookie coach will implement? I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens.


The STAR Hotshots have played a total of 4 pre-season games and the results are as follows: vs. San Miguel 97-97 (D), vs. Mahindra 78-80 (L), vs. NLEX 75-73 (W), vs. Alaska 83-83 (D). From the looks of it, the STAR Hotshots can be a fairly competitive squad even with the departure of Coach Tim Cone. Some may say that it’s only the preseason, but it’s a step in the right direction nonetheless. It’s now safe to say that Purefoods, post-Tim Cone, will not be an easy squad to go up against.

I’ll make a bold prediction and say that the Hotshots will finish the elimination round with a 6-5 record for 5th or 6th place in the team standings. It is not for certain though as lots of things can happen anytime within a conference and a season. But one thing’s for sure, the STAR Hotshots will fight hard every game.