FOR a guy who probably is one of the most insightful and quotable persons in Philippine basketball, it was quite hard to believe that Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tab Baldwin had so little to say about his playing career.
“Prepare yourself for the shortest answer you’ll ever had,” said Baldwin in jest when posed with the question by Spin.ph in a recent press conference.
While he has had a lot of success coaching-wise, particularly for the national teams of New Zealand, Lebanon, and Jordan prior to handling Gilas, it was quite surprising to learn that Baldwin had a very - and we mean very - short career as a basketball player.
“I played high school basketball, played for my father. And at the end of that, that was it,” said Baldwin.
Basketball wasn’t the only sport Baldwin loved while growing up in Florida, having also played tennis, golf, softball, baseball, and American football, most of them for recreation. Being Florida guy, Baldwin said he also learned how to surf.
“Very few of them, I played competitively. A lot of them, for enjoyment,” said Baldwin.
Basketball was no doubt the sport closest to Baldwin’s heart. And ironically, it was no less than his father, who also happened to be his coach in high school, who discouraged him from pursuing basketball as a career - either as a player or coach.
His father, John, played for Notre Dame in the 1930s when college basketball was beginning to flourish. He later became head coach of Bishop Kenny High School in Jacksonville, Florida. The school later named the basketball gym in honor of Tab’s father.
“My dad was convinced that I have no future in the game of basketball and he left it at that. He didn’t even say it as a coach. He said, 'Go to school, get a good education, and go work like most people do.' He discouraged me to play after that.
“He was a strict disciplinarian. My dad coached in the dawn of the age of basketball. He had a lot of success coaching the game. The stadium at my high school was named after him. He was a successful coach. But he didn’t want me to be a coach. In fact, he actively discouraged that.”
Despite his father’s reservations, Baldwin felt basketball, particularly coaching, was the way to go for him.
“What made me go into coaching basketball was probably because that was my frame of reference. That’s what I knew and that’s what I understood. I love the game,” said Baldwin.
Baldwin said it was also from his father that he learned the value of leadership, as, along with his brothers, they were all point guards on their teams - perhaps the reason switching to coaching became almost natural for him.
“My father was a basketball coach. I had four older brothers and they all played basketball. We were all point guards and we were expected to be leaders of our teams. We were expected to know and understand the game well. That’s what he expected of us,” said Baldwin.
Baldwin has gone on to prove his father wrong, but the Gilas coach still looked up to dad as his mentor.
“He was my dictator,” said Baldwin, describing his father. “But really he was my mentor, and later my coaching mentor.”