CHANGSHA, China – It’s a reality in the Fiba Asia Championship – or for any tournaments for that matter – which Gilas coach Tab Baldwin has learned the hard way.
Baldwin is aware the host country usually gets the benefit of officiating and this 28th edition of the meet serving as qualifier to next year’s Olympics in Rio De Janeiro is no exception.
What he had seen so far in games at the Changsha Social Work Colleges gymnasium confirmed what the American-New Zealander had thought all along.
“They’ll gonna get a 50-50 call even when the refs are not Chinese,” said Baldwin. “It’s a big crowd. They’re very loud, they’re very supportive of the team. There’s a history of that. I think we’re foolish if we think any different than that.”
At most, the Gilas coach said it’s better for teams, the Philippines included, to stick to the basics and play their A-game especially if facing Yi Jianlian and the rest of the Chinese, whomGilas could likely face in the semis should the Filipinos make it far in the tournament.
“You try to be a little bit quicker to the ball, be a little bit more discipline with your hands and your footwork defensively,” said Baldwin. “Live with what you get, that’s all you can do.”
“Would you rather brush your teeth or would you rather have a cavity? I’d rather brush my teeth. So we’ll be prepared for that mentality, but at the moment it’s pretty tough.”
Baldwin of course, is talking from experience.
Then calling the shots for Jordan, Baldwin and his team lost to China during the title match of the 2011 Fiba Asia Championship in Wuhan, 70-69, on Yi's free throw off a contested foul in the final 27 seconds.
Sam Daghles missed a desperation three-point attempt at the buzzer that allowed the Chinese to book the ticket to the London Olympics that was at stake in the meet.
“I was at the wrong end of a pretty tough call four years ago. I won’t forget that and it’s a lesson that I certainly learned,” Baldwin recalled to Manila-based sportswriters.
“There’s no need to make that call at all. We protested it vociferously and we protested it to the wind, because that’s the only entity that hears it.”
But on second thought, the Gilas coach said had Jordan won the gold medal match, he wouldn’t end up coaching the Philippines - a job he thoroughly enjoys.
“Things like that changed your life. Who knows I might be living in King Abdullah’s palace right now if I won that instead of coaching the Philippines,” he said smiling.
“So I’ll take the result. I’ll take the aftermath. I’m happy to be in Manila and I'm happy to be working with guys I work with now.”