By REYLAN A. LOBERTERNOS
DOES Chot Reyes consider himself a superior coach to the likes of Tab Baldwin, Nenad Vucinic, Rajko Toroman, or even Tim Cone? Does he see himself as the best fit to handle the monumental task of steering a squad versus the giants of the basketball world? He may tell you otherwise or perhaps just say with much eloquence that he’s only doing his job, but fact of the matter is that he is the Gilas program director, for crying out loud! Of course he sees himself as the best man for the job!
Fan opinion on Chot Reyes
Does anybody really believe that Baldwin, the person who has masterfully crafted a winning formula for a national team seeking to make a mark on the world stage, stepped down on his own volition? Everybody knows it’s pure hogwash. Somebody wants redemption… somebody wants to take the limelight away from the one that truly deserved it.
He may have been the head coach that guided Gilas Pilipinas back to the FIBA World Cup way back in 2014, by beating Korea in the semifinals of the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship… but what has he really done on the world stage since then? Didn’t we lose badly to Iran in the championship match? In the World Cup, we "almost" won tightly fought games versus higher ranked teams of Croatia, Greece, Argentina, and Puerto Rico, before winning in overtime against Senegal to record our first victory at the World Cup in 40 years.
Can Chot take full credit for our team "competing" well with the big guys, too? Of course not! Andray Blatche, who averaged 21.2 points, 13.8 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game, with all his shortcomings, was the main reason we competed well in the 2014 Wold Cup. Besides, prior to that tournament, was it really because of Chot that we won and broke the so-called "Korean Curse"? We had great guards Jimmy Alapag, Jayson Castro, and Gabe Norwood, while veteran big men Ranidel de Ocampo and Marc Pingris were also in tow. Six-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo was rarely even utilized. That team was loaded with great individual talent. Chot blindly believes that his dribble-drive system had a lot to do with the "success."
However, foreign coaches showed us Pinoy fans that there is indeed a much-better way. Less dribbles, more off-ball movement, timely screens, and more passes. Rajko Toroman first introduced it in the first and original Gilas iteration composed of amateurs and naturalized player Marcus Douthit. We didn’t win much, but we were treated to a game that’s played the right way. Although he led what was then called Smart Gilas Pilipinas to a fourth-place finish in the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship, the Philippines’ best finish in that event since 1987 and the best finish in any major Asian competition since 2002, it wasn’t deemed enough. Chot then took over.
Tab Baldwin came next and won a lot. He led Gilas to sliver finishes in the 2015 editions of the William Jones Cup and FIBA Asia Championship. We also won the gold medal in the 2016 SEABA Cup, before being set up to fail in the 2016 FIBA Asia Challenge, where Gilas was represented by ragtag Gilas cadets with no professional or naturalized players. Chot once again took over.
Need I mention the embarrassing 53-89 loss to Australia in the FIBA Asian Qualifiers that was marred by a brawl in front of our Pinoy fans, way back in July, 2018? Chot had at his disposal a star-studded lineup consisting of Andray Blatche, June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, Jayson Castro, Terrence Romeo, RR Pogoy, Matthew Wright, Calvin Abueva, Gabe Norwood, Troy Rosario, Carl Bryan Cruz, and Baser Amer. Shouldn’t he take full "credit" for that performance, as well? Did his favorite dribble-drive offense work?
After an unprecedented success in the UAAP, Tab Balwin was once again tapped to take over as head coach for Gilas in 2021, leading the team in a sweep of three games of the final window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers, including two wins versus South Korea. He basically erased the dreaded “Korean Curse,” leading a bunch of amateurs in a couple of upset victories over our Asian rivals. He also steered the same amateur players to a very impressive showing, although in a losing effort, in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, Serbia later that year. However, just weeks before the first window of the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup qualifying tournament, Baldwin inexplicably stepped down from his post.
Guess who took over? Yes, you guessed right. The result – a silver finish in the 31 st Southeast Asian Games, losing to Indonesia 81-85 in the finals last May. The loss ended the Philippines’ 33-year reign in the biennial regional meet.
For a couple of games, Nenad Vucinic took the cudgels in the third window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers. Gilas was without naturalized center Angelo Kouame, who was nursing an injury. The Pinoys were overpowered by the New Zealand Tall Blacks in the first outing, but recovered to score a victory over India in the second game. Due to South Korea’s disqualification, Gilas has advanced into the second round. Although the end result wasn’t ideal, Gilas showed the unselfish brand of basketball, typical of foreign coaches. Then a very familiar name, Chot Reyes, took the reins once again.
Frustration is an understatement when describing my feelings about the current state of our Gilas Pilipinas Men’s National Basketball Team. I am sure I am not alone in this and that a lot of avid Pinoy basketball fans share my sentiments. Simply put, head coach and Gilas program director Chot Reyes is primarily to blame for the recent Gilas debacles. Singlehandedly, he has engineered arguably the worst slide in the national team’s history. Everybody is entitled to a redemption story, but does he really deserve it at our beloved national team’s expense?
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