CHANGSHA, China – Despite coming up short of winning the Fiba Asia Championship title and an outright berth in next year’s 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics, coach Tab Baldwin still sees the day when the Philippines will reign anew as king of basketball in the region.
“That’s two second (place finishes) for the Philippines in a row. We need to figure out a way to improve and I believe we will,” said Baldwin late Saturday night shortly after the Filipinos lost to China, 78-67, in the gold medal play before an overflow crowd at the Changsha Social Work Colleges gymnasium here.
The runner-up finish equalled the feat achieved by Gilas 2.0 under Chot Reyes during the 2013 edition of the biennial meet in Manila, giving Baldwin even more reason to be confident about the future of Gilas.
“We have to look ahead now, but not tonight,” said Baldwin, who couldn’t hide his disappointment following the loss - his second to China in a Fiba Asia final after his Jordan team's runner-up finish in 2011.
“We would like to get across the board’s support and we hope for that in the future. It would help a lot, but nobody’s really thinking about that right now.”
The 57-year-old American-New Zealander said the locker room atmosphere was ‘very down’ especially with the way the team performed on the most important game of the Olympic qualifying tournament.
The Filipinos struggled with their shots, hitting just 35 percent from the floor on 23-of-65 shooting. They were likewise a disappointment from the foul line where they shot 15-of-26 for a 58 percent shooting.
No wonder Baldwin couldn’t hide the pain of his second championship loss to China after the 2011 Fiba-Asia in Wuhan when he was still calling the shots for the Jordan national team.
“It hurts,” he admitted. "We invested everything we had as basketball men to win this thing and we didn’t. It wasn’t for the lack of trying and it wasn’t for lack of commitment."
“Second place is more than honorable, but right now it feels not like first place. And not first place is not what we came here for.”