FIBA World Cup before, and now the Olympics.
The burning desire to see Philippine basketball back in the quadrennial meet somehow factored in the decision of Chot Reyes to consider calling the shots anew for Gilas Pilipinas.
Reyes left the national team following a disappointing finish in Gilas’ campaign during the 2014 Asian Games, making him missed the chance to call the shots when the Filipinos vied in two separate Olympic qualifying tournaments in 2015 and in July of this year.
The 53-year-old coach disclosed his wish to help the team return to the Olympics almost two weeks before it was announced he’ll be taking over Gilas anew as replacement for American-New Zealander Tab Baldwin.
“The one thing I’d still like to do in my career is to lead the team to the Olympics,” said Reyes before national athletes and Philippine sports officials during the thanksgiving party held by Sports5 to members of the Philippine contingent to the 2016 Rio Olympics at the Resorts World hotel.
"To lead Philippine basketball to the Olympics," he added.
The national coach, who is also president of TV5 and Media5, disclosed how he envies Rio Games silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz and all the other athletes who were able to represent the country in the Olympiad.
“I must admit na ang laki ng pagka-inggit ko sa mga atleta natin, because the one thing I hadn’t done in my career, in my life is to march in an Olympic opening ceremony,” he said.”It is my dream, it is a fire that resides deep within me, to have a chance to represent the country in the Olympics.”
“And that’s why naiinggit ako at saludo ako sa inyo.”
The next Olympics won't come until 2020 in Tokyo, Japan.
Reyes was responsible for the country’s return to the FIBA World Cup after a 35-year absence when Gilas Pilipinas finished a strong runner-up to Iran during the 2013 FIBA-Asia men’s championship which Manila hosted.
During the world championship in Seville, Spain, the Filipinos gave world powerhouse teams such as Croatia, Argentina, Greece, and Puerto Rico good runs for their money. They eventually beat Senegal in overtime, 81-79, for their first victory in the meet and first for the country in 40 years.
Hopes were high for Gilas following the creditable showing in the world meet, only to fall flat on its face when the Asian Games came in Incheon, South Korea. The country failed to make the medal round of the meet where it was favored to crowd out Iran and China for the gold
Shortly after, the team was disbanded and named Baldwin as its new coach in a bid to have a fresh start once it starts campaigning for a berth in the 2016 Rio Games.
Under Baldwin, Gilas came a win short of making the Olympics outright as it lost to host China in the gold medal match of the FIBA Asia meet last year. It did earn a berth in the Olympic qualifying tournament, which Manila hosted three months ago, following its silver medal finish.
Unfortunately, despite enjoying the comfort of playing before a hometown crowd, the team never made it past the preliminary, losing its two matches against France and New Zealand to kiss goodbye its Olympic hopes.
The Philippines has never been to the Olympiad since the 1972 edition of the meet in Munich, Germany.
To lead Philippine basketball to the Olympics