GILAS Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin delayed the announcement of the 14-man lineup that will embark on a three-week European trip as a major part of its buildup for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament next month.
The anticipated announcement of the lineup was supposedly set to be made after the national team’s tune-up game versus Iran on Wednesday night, but the performance of the players in the 81-70 win made Baldwin think twice.
“Actually, we were very close to a decision, but tonight’s game kind of makes us rethink things sometimes,” the national coach said after the game. “But that’s why we play those games for…to help us make final decisions.”
“It’s a credit to the players that they’re making this decision extremely difficult,” added Baldwin, who, however, officially crossed out standout cadet Kiefer Ravena and naturalized player reserve Mo Tautuaa from consideration, trimming the pool to just 15 players, with one odd man out.
Out of the 15 players, shooters Marcio Lassiter and Jeff Chan didn’t see action in the tune-up game owing to injuries, although Chan was a spectator.
“We anticipate having to make a decision on one player,” Baldwin said as he met with coaches Alex Compton, Norman Black, Jong Uichico, and Josh Reyes after the game over dinner to make a final decision.
“That’s where it’s at, when we’re blessed with having three PBA head coaches and a coach like Josh Reyes who has a lot of experience both with Gilas and in the PBA,” Baldwin said.
“We’re going to try and put all the factors together and rather than be in the lotto, we’re going to try and make an intelligent decision because right now, we just feel like we’re picking a name out of a hat,” he added. “It’s that tough to make the decision.”
Baldwin said the decision could be announced on Thursday morning, a day before they leave for Greece.
“It’s a very important event for the players,” Baldwin said. “It’s a very important event for the team.”
“But it’s a brutal decision for the head coach,” he was quick to add. “And it’s probably one of the few things in life I’d like to run away from every time I have to confront it, but you can’t. It’s part of the job and it’s the worst part. I’ve done it many times and it never gets easy. I’ve been in tears making this decision before in my career.”