FOR Gilas Pilipinas to have a shot at beating world No. 5 Serbia and other world giants in the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament, it must learn to battle possession by possession, said Tab Baldwin.
"If I said to you, 'Can this Gilas team of all cadets stop Serbia on one possession from scoring?' You’re gonna say, 'Yes of course, they can,'" the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) program director told Hoops Life.
"Serbia's not gonna score on every possession of the game. And I’m gonna say you’re right, and I’ll say, 'Can they score on one possession? Can they do enough to get a shot and make the shot?' And you’re gonna say, 'Yes, we’re not gonna get shut out.' Nobody does, and if they can do it once, why can’t they do it twice? And if they can do it twice, why can’t they do it more than Serbia?"
"So this is my approach as a coach: I don’t know if we will win, and we're not going out there to win. We're going out there to win more possessions than our opponents are and to take those possessions one possession at a time.
"And when we run in scenarios or it seems that we can’t score, that’s when the coaching staff steps in and makes adjustments and tries to help players find a better route toward winning each possession. That’s how our coaching staff is gonna construct, we’re gonna try to construct victories in every game that we play."
It's typical Baldwin to labor on the finer details in plotting his approach to the games, especially since Gilas will be gunning for a miracle in the Belgrade OQT.
The Philippines needs to finish in the top two of the tough Group A against Serbia and Dominican Republic then be the last team standing to book a ticket to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The job is made all the more harder given the youthful pool Baldwin has at his disposal in the national team, not just for the Belgrade OQT but also for the third window of qualifiers in June and the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup proper in August.
"I can't recall, in my 20 years of international basketball experience and 40 years of coaching and kind of watching what's going on in the world, an all-amateur team ever competing in elite international tournaments like we did in all three Fiba windows, the OQT, and the Asia Cup, if we continue down this path. In fact, the competition only gets higher at the World Cups and at the Olympics."
But that doesn't mean Baldwin isn't thinking about winning.
"I think most people would have an expectation that the honest answer would be, 'Let's just put in a good showing. And it would not be out of the realm of reality for me to say, 'Look, we just want to go and put a good showing and gain experience.'," he said.
"But that goes against everything that I have ever said as a basketball coach. And so, my position on answering that question is the same as when I answer a question when somebody asks me, 'Is Ateneo gonna win another championship?' And I say, 'Look, I'm only worried about the next possession.'"
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