CHANGSHA, China – The man at the helm when Gilas first came to life, hopes he could be wrong.
Although he likes the chances of Gilas Pilipinas 3.0 to win the Fiba Asia Championship and make it to the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Serbian Rajko Toroman sees host China – or even defending champion Iran – emerging as the king of basketball in the region.
Enjoying the advantage of the hometown crowd, a young, rising Chinese team still bannered by former NBA player Yi Jianlian poses a big threat to the Filipinos – or any opponent for that matter – should the hosts make it all the way to the championship game, Toroman warned.
“Gilas has a chance,” said Toroman, who handled Gilas 1.0 from 2008-2011 and now serves as head coach of Jordan.
“But it’s China or Iran will be. Maybe China, because of domestic work, everything is second.”
Now someone who’s outside looking in following the ouster of Jordan, the 60-year-old native of Belgrade, Serbia said Gilas has a clear path to the finals after emerging the top team in Group E following the 87-73 win over Iran.
Toroman's team could have gotten a shot at playing the Filipinos in the crossover knockout quarterfinals, but lost to Lebanon in a do-or-die encounter for the last berth in Group F.
He expects Gilas though to get past the Lebanese, who are without their best player in Fadi El Khatib.
“Now they (Gilas) have an open way to the finals because if they beat Lebanon, which I expected they can do, after that there is a game against Qatar or Japan, the way to the finals is very clear for them,” said the Serbian responsible for steering Iran to its first ever Fiba-Asia title back in 2007.
As for Jordan, Toroman said he’ll have to sit and talk to the country’s basketball federation after failing to make it deep in this year’s edition of the Olympic qualifying tournament.
“It’s very tough, but that’s life,” he said of his worst possible finish as coach in the Asian region. “We have to go out of this, but that’s how it is.”
Toroman steered Smart Gilas to a fourth place finish during the 2011 edition of the Fiba Asia in Wuhan, China.