The Coca-Cola Tigers is a professional team of the Philippine Basketball Association founded in 2002, when the then-San Miguel Corporation-owned Coca Cola Bottlers Philippines bought the RFM-owned Cosmos Bottling Corporation.
Pop Cola Panthers arrived in the PBA in 1990 as one of two expansion teams in the league. In 1992, as Swift, they won the Third Conference by sweeping 7-Up with Yeng Guiao as head coach. As Sunkist, they won the 1995 All-Filipino and Commissioners Cup title with Derrick Pumaren as head coach.
In 2001. Republic Flour Mills (RFM) sold its subsidiary COSMOS Bottlers Corporation to food company giant San Miguel Corporation. The move also absorbed the PBA team, which gave SMC four PBA ballclubs. After the PBA board gave to go-signal to allow the team to remain in the league, it was renamed as the Coca-Cola Tigers before the start of the 2002 season.
The old Pop Cola team's lineage was removed, with Viva-Vintage television commentators mentioning the Tigers as an expansion club after winning the 2002 All-Filipino Cup. However, it can be argued that Pop Cola is a Cosmos product, and the lineage of the old Swift, and Sunkist franchise still exists on the current team. But since RFM still owns Swift and Sunkist, the lineage of the old franchise to the Tigers could also be legitimately removed.
After losing Johnny Abarrientos in Game One of the best-of-five series, the Tigers won the next three games to secure their first-ever PBA title. Ironically, the Tigers clinched the series on the first PBA game held on Christmas Day.
But the Tigers succeeded in the Reinforced Conference. Bannered by former Mobiline import Artemus McClary, Coke won the said tournament against sister team San Miguel in seven grueling games to win their second PBA crown.
McClary was named Best Import of the tournament while Hatfield won the Best Player of the Conference award for the first time in his career.
In the 2004-2005 PBA Philippine Cup, the Tigers struggled after the indefinite suspension of Rudy Hatfield due to citizenship issues, the acquisition of Ali Peek and John Arigo from Alaska in exchange for Jeffrey Cariaso and Reynel Hugnatan midway through the tournament and the naming of Chot Reyes as the head coach of the Philippine National team, the Tigers were eliminated by sister-team Purefoods in the wild-card phase, 2-1.
Eric Altamirano made his return in the PBA as Coca-Cola's coach in the 2005 Fiesta Conference but the Tigers finished dead last in the tournament, eliminated by Alaska in the wild-card phase.
In the 2006 PBA Philippine Cup, the Tigers went 7-9 in the classification phase. However, after starting the season 4-0 and 6-2 in the first round, the Tigers lost seven of the last eight games, falling in a tie for fifth place with the Air21 Express. Both teams played a one-game match for the final outright quarterfinals berth in the playoffs on May 28 with the Tigers defeating the Express 97-83. The win gave the Tigers its first quarterfinals berth since the 2004 Fiesta Conference. The Tigers lost to the Alaska Aces, 3-1 in the quarterfinals.
In the deal, the Tigers dealt Rafi Reavis, Billy Mamaril and the rights to Rudy Hatfield to Ginebra. The Kings sent Aries Dimaunahan and Ervin Sotto, along with future draft picks to Air21 while Coca-Cola received Kalani Ferreria from Brgy. Ginebra, Ryan Bernardo from Air21 and Manny Ramos (initially from Ginebra but was received from Air21 under the revised version of the deal).
During the draft held in Market-Market, Taguig, the Coca Cola Tigers selected ex-La Salle shooting guard Joseph Yeo as the third overall pick in the first round. The Tigers then chose FEU hotshot RJ Rizada (12th pick), PSBA standout Manuel Caceres (14th pick), St. Francis of Assisi shooting guard Chris Pacana (15th pick), Air21 Express traded their 2006 second round pick for the Tigers 2007 second round pick that is sealed on the draft day, slotman/center Mike Gavino (16th pick), and ex-Letran guard Ronjay Enrile (17th pick) in the second round.
At the start of the season, Coca-Cola struggled throughout the conference due to its depleted lineup but had its share of surprising wins over Red Bull and Sta. Lucia among others. The Tigers barely made it to the wildcard phase with a 5-13 record.
In the wildcard phase, Coke pulled off a 99-98 come-from-behind win over Alaska on a Denok Miranda buzzer-beating triple. But the Tigers lost their next two games to bow out of contention for the quarterfinals phase.
But prior to the start of the 2007 PBA Fiesta Conference, it was announced that the Atlanta-based company now controls the franchise, with coaches, players and management staying upon further notice, saying the Coca-Cola Company would honor their existing contracts.
On March 23, 2007, team manager Allan Caidic announced his resignation from his post to allow the Coca-Cola Company to have a free hand in running the team affairs. It has been speculated that this move is because Caidic is known to be a loyalist of former team owner Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco.
The Tigers won their first two games with Anthony Johnson, but soon suffered a series of defeats. Because of these, the Tigers made a change on its lineup.Coca-Cola replaced Johnson with Jeff Varem and acquired 1998 PBA MVP Kenneth Duremdes, Alex Cabagnot and Ricky Calimag from Sta. Lucia in exchange of Denok Miranda, Manny Ramos and future picks. The Tigers finish 7th in the classification phase and was relegated to wildcard phase.
With scoring import Rashad Bell at the helm, Coke beat Purefoods in the first knockout wildcard match, but suffered a monumental 102-101 loss to San Miguel in the last match for the quarterfinals, despite leading 101-97 with 13 seconds to play.
Then upon getting Buenafe, the Tigers sent Joseph Yeo, the team's 3rd overall rookie pick a year ago and 2008 second round pick, to the Sta. Lucia Realtors in exchange for center sophomore Mark Isip and shooter Cesar Catli.
On the start of the 33rd season, the Tigers win their first game against the Welcoat Dragons but then suffered a franchise-worst eight straight losses.
Because of guards injury and unbelievable string set of setbacks, Coca-Cola pawned Aris Dimaunahan from Air21. On November 26, the Talk 'N Text Phone Pals traded Asi Taulava to the Coca-Cola Tigers in exchange for Ali Peek and a first-round pick. "The Rock" became instrumental in a five game winning streak that is enough to get the Tigers through the wildcard phase with a 7-11 card.
In the wildcard phase, the Tigers eliminated the Talk 'N Text Phone Pals and Air21 Express to get into the quarterfinals, the lowest-seed to do so. In the quarterfinals, the Tigers ran out of gas as the Alaska Aces swept them in the best-of-3 series, partly due to overfatigue on the part of the Tigers.
Having the second-worst elimination round record, the Tigers, along with the Welcoat Dragons are allowed to acquire an import in height, aside from the import of unrestricted height all of the teams will have.
|PG||Alex Cabagnot||Aries Dimaunahan||Froilan Baguion|
|SG||Ronjay Buenafe||John Arigo||R.J. Rizada|
|SF||MArk Macapagal||Cesar Catli||M.C. Caceres|
|PF||Nic Belasco||Ricky Calimag||Lawrence Bonus|
|C||Asi Taulava||Mark Telan|