TAB Baldwin wants Gilas Pilipinas to embrace a winning mentality the way the celebrated ‘Tall Blacks’ of New Zealand did during its dream run in the 2002 Fiba World Cup in Indianapolis, USA.
The national coach said the gains made by Gilas in last year’s Fiba World Cup in Seville, Spain could be a good starting ground for the team.
“You can’t snap your fingers and expect that (reaching world-class status) to happen. It’s very much up to the players to dedicate themselves to the cause,” Baldwin told Spin.ph shortly after Talk ‘N Text’s practice on Friday at the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center inside the Ateneo campus.
“I know it because I have been there (Fiba World Cup). I know what it takes. I can motivate to the best of my ability, but you can’t push the rope to go anywhere. If they want to get there, they can get there,” added the Gilas coach, who also serves as Talk ‘N Text consultant.
The 56-year-old successor of Chot Reyes explained Gilas will have to go through the fire, so to speak, in order to develop a certain level of toughness the way the Tall Blacks did during his time coaching the team more than a decade ago.
“They (Tall Blacks) would compete against each other all-year long and they were just dying to get into the national team and spend that time together,” recalled Baldwin of the team he guided to a fourth-place finish in the world championship 13 years ago.
“Because we couldn’t bring teams from around the world to New Zealand because it’s expensive, we’re always on the road. So the bonding we spent on the road was unique,” he added.
The American-New Zealander said because of limited funding, the Tall Blacks lived in ‘spartan-like’ conditions, sleeping together in a dormitory during their road trips, which strengthened the team’s bond even more and prepared them for the tough battles ahead.
“What grew out was a dedication with one another that couldn’t be broken,” he added. “We had talent, some good players, but no size at all.”
Baldwin remembered how the New Zealand team was furious inside the dugout following its 117-94 loss to Dirk Nowitzki and Germany during the bronze medal game despite having overachieved in the tournament following its fourth place finish.
“We were devastated, we were furious, emotional and we were broken. We believed we got that far to go all the way and win it,” he said.
“And when we didn’t, there was no consolation for us and that was evidenced with why we got that far, we had an attitude and we know what we’re gonna do,” added Baldwin, who served as Gilas’ consultant for two years before being named coach last December.
The four-time National Basketball League Coach of the Year in New Zealand hopes the future Gilas team just won’t settle for anything less when training starts in July for the Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship in China.
“Now we need to go wherever we go thinking we’re gonna win, as simple as that. That pressure, we don’t need for it to come from management, or from the media, but we need to put the pressure on ourselves,” he said.
“We don’t need to be judged as if we’re gonna win, but we need to have that mentality that we play to win.”