TAIPEI – As he broke up a light morning practice and shootaround hours before a game against South Korea, Tab Baldwin spoke lengthily before Gilas Pilipinas players about the danger of dropping their guard after a big Jones Cup debut against host Chinese Taipei.
To stress his point, Baldwin only had to remind his players about the Gilas experience of 2014 when the high from the Fiba World Cup experience was followed by the nightmare in the Asian Games that threw the national team program off course - and eventually cost Chot Reyes his job.
All it took, Baldwin warned, were a couple of 'lazy, irresponsible' games in the Asian Games and it almost came undone for the national team.
“We will be tested, we will be tested in a lot of ways,” Baldwin said of his players who are still on a high after the 77-69 win over Taipei the night before. “I was talking about relaxing their attitude (after a first win in the Jones Cup) and not taking teams seriously as we move through the tournament.
“All it takes is a couple of lazy, irresponsible losses and you damage people’s reputation, damage your own and damage your careers.”
Baldwin was a Gilas consultant during the time of Reyes, who, after leading the team to a runner-up finish in the 2013 Fiba Asia championship and a sentimental return to the World Cup, got caught up in a swirl of controversy as Gilas tumbled out of contention in the Asiad.
The American-New Zealander said he felt the way the team played in the Incheon Asiad was a 'disservice' to Reyes.
“I felt in the Asian Games, it was a real disservice to Chot – the way the team played a couple of times,” he went on. “He did a phenomenal job last year and he was really sacrificed.
“This is a sensitive subject to be talking about. Chot and I are friends and I felt really bad for Chot. I felt he got the raw end of the deal,” Baldwin added. “There was a lot of stuff going on last year and I felt the team could have helped him more.”
That's one lesson this Gilas batch needs to keep in mind as the team build up for the 2015 Fiba Asia in Changsha, China next month, which serves as a qualifier for next year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“I just want to guard them against relaxing and hurting Gilas and helping everybody involved in Gilas because that’s what it does when you drop your guard,” Baldwin, who was recruited into the program by Reyes, said in breaking up his own huddle with the Filipino press.
“I’m not afraid to say it publicly, because it happens and, unfortunately when it happens, it’s over-inflated and sometimes, people are hurt by that and that’s sad.”