Since PBA commissioner Chito Salud revealed on Thursday (Oct. 30) that Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Manny V. Pangilinan (MVP) has agreed to form a selection committee that will oversee the appointment of a new Gilas Pilipinas coach and naming of the new pool of national players, local basketball fans expressed varied reactions online.
Some die-hard basketball fans were saddened by this move because they felt, removing Chot Reyes from the coaching post means “rebooting” the Gilas basketball program, alotogether with just barely nine months in to the 2015 Fiba-Asia men’s basketball championship, a tournament that serves as the qualifier for the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil.
On the other hand, another group of local cagé fans feel that it is time for a new coach to take over, considering the debacle in the recent Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.After the Philippines marked its return to Fiba World Cup in Spain, with a historic overtime win over Senegal, the country’s first victory in 40 years, along with several “near wins” over powerhouse teams Croatia, Argentina and Puerto Rico, Gilas plunged to an all-time low when it finished seventh in the Asian Games.
The seventh place finish marked the country’s worst finish in the quadrennial games, a result that didn’t sit well for this basketball-crazy nation, which expected Gilas to make it all the way to the gold medal round and challenge Asian power Iran.
But now that the SBP’s selection committee is set to chart the course of the new Gilas team this month, American-New Zealand coach Tab Baldwin’s name cropped up in the scheme of things.
Baldwin served as one of Gilas’ consultants since the run-up to last year’s Fiba-Asia men’s cage championships in Manila. At present, he’s been absorbed by Talk ‘N Text as its consultant in the PBA.
People may not know him much, but the 56-year-old, soft-spoken foreign coach is best remembered for guiding the New Zealand “Tall Blacks” national team to a semifinal finish in the 2002 Fiba World Cup in Indianapolis, USA.
The semifinal stint was the best-ever finish by any Oceania team in the history of the world championships.
Baldwin again handled the Tall Blacks at the 2004 Athens Olympics, followed by the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan.
The US-born (Florida) consultant’s international coaching resume also includes steering the Lebanon national squad to the 2010 Fiba Asia Stankovic Cup championship, along with a world championships stint that same year in Istanbul, Turkey.
He’s also handled the Malaysian national men’s basketball team in 1996 and the Jordanian national squad, which he guided to a runner-up finish behind host China in the 2011 Fiba-Asia men’s championships in Wuhan.
That same Jordanian squad shocked then two-time Asian champion Iran in the quarterfinals, before administering Smart-Gilas’ semifinal exit. Smart-Gilas was then being handled by Serbian mentor Rajko Toroman, who, ironically, now handled Jordan.
Locally, Baldwin owns five NBL titles (1995, 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2000) in New Zealand. He also won four NBL Coach of the Year (1995, 97, 99 and 2014).
With such an impressive coaching credential, in my humble opinion, I believe Baldwin should easily qualify for the Gilas coaching job.
International coaching requires a different set of skill because of the need to be “snappy” in making decisions during the short 40-minute game (as opposed to a pro basketball game like the PBA or NBA that requires a longer 48-minute time frame), along with the ability to make the right substitutions in a given situation.
There’s no question that nobody better understands the Fiba games than Baldwin, someone, who can actually better tweak Reyes’ system should he be given the task to take the Gilas national basketball program to the next level.
Since the Smart-Gilas program, we’ve seen the Philippines steadily rise in the global basketball scene. But again, if we want to be a world-class national basketball team, then Baldwin’s expertise will be vital.
Baldwin isn’t necessarily going to be the “messiah” of Philippine basketball, but with his vast international coaching experience, plus his familiarity with the Filipino cagers’ psyche (since his Gilas consultancy stint from 2013 onwards), there is little doubt that he can contribute immensely to the country’s dream of returning to the Olympics.
The Philippines’ last Olympic appearance happened in the 1972 Munich Games in Germany where the national men’s basketball team led by Bogs Adornado, the late Ed Ocampo and Jimmy Mariano placed 13th overall.