In an interview with SEAG Live, Panlilio delivered shocking details regarding the fallout between the federation and the former national coach, saying that the Philippines wouldn't be in this situation if Baldwin decided to handle the team in the February window of the 2023 Fiba World Cup Asian qualifiers.
"Honestly, the predicament that we are in today is because of Tab," Panlilio strongly claimed. "We started losing players, he didn’t want to coach the February window, so as a federation we had to make decisions on how to move forward."
It was the first time that someone from the federation provided details on what led to Chot Reyes assuming Baldwin's role.
Panlilio said Baldwin personally talked to SBP chairman emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan on his plans to not coach last February and was only relayed of that conversation through PBA chairman Ricky Vargas.
"That conversation was between MVP and Tab. MVP did tell me and Ricky Vargas that for the February window, Tab said to him that he won’t be able to coach for that window and would rather focus on Ateneo at that time," he shared.
"That was quite alarming for me because I felt like he was supposed to be the program director and national head coach of the team tapos bigla na lang one window hindi siya pwede mag-coach. So parang medyo mahirap naman ata yung ganun."
Panlilio added that it was Baldwin who recommended Reyes to assume the post he left, recommending the TNT Tropang Giga coach to take over.
"At the same time, he did recommend to, I think MVP asked him who could replace him, and he said Chot could take over," he furthered.
Panlilio said he thinks that because of the confluence of events, from losing players to international leagues to the lofty expectations set by campaigns inside the Clark bubble, Baldwin decided to step down.
"I think he knew he had no team and he had no chance to perform well after performing very well in the Fiba Asia Cup qualifying and beating Korea twice in the bubble," he said.
Panlilio also argued that what happened could have been avoided as Baldwin had three months to prepare for the February window after the cancellation of the Gilas games in November 2021.
"At the same time, he also had time to prepare for that. He had three months to prepare for the bubble. Everybody was in a bubble so he had time to train the team," he stated. "Chot can't have that. First you got to have players and that's why the bandaid solution there is to bring in the TNT team and help out."
"It was a very difficult time for the SBP because we did not have players, the national coach at that time said that he could not coach the February window and would rather focus on Ateneo, and we had to ask Chot to step in."
Reyes was at the forefront for all of those defeats, but Panlilio defended the outspoken coach and said that as much of a tall task as he was given, he just took the job head on.
"In fairness to Chot, he knew that he had no team that February window and I think he had only six players during that time, but he still took on the job because we asked him to do so. Pilipino siya and he could not turn his back on the flag even though he knew it was going to be very difficult for him," he said.
"It's really admirable of Chot knowing that he might be facing a massive backlash if he didn't perform well but he said, 'I will do this for the country. You asked me to help you and I will.' But it wasn't his doing."
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