CHICAGO - As the clamor for sweeping changes at the SBP (Samahang Basketbol Ng Pilipinas) grew increasingly deafening, its president, Al Panlilio, did what arguably was his most meaningful act in recent months.
He threw an unsuspecting Tab Baldwin under a roaring, speeding bus.
Apparently, there are no mirrors inside the SBP house of horrors, which explains why the federation is quick to issue an assist - passing the buck on Baldwin.
"Honestly, the predicament that we are in today is because of Tab," Panlilio said during an interview with SEAG Live where he tried to skate away from the responsibility over Gilas' embarrassing decline.
In the last calendar year, our men's national team has won only thrice in 11 Fiba-sanctioned games, with all wins coming against India, a team that will have a hard time against any of the top collegiate teams in the country.
During this ongoing sleepwalk to mediocrity, we couldn't topple Indonesia, a country whose first love is badminton, so unlike ours which lives and breathes basketball.
But it's Tab's fault anyway, because he wanted to skip coaching a Fiba window.
"That was quite alarming for me because it felt like he was supposed to be program director and head coach of the team tapos bigla na lang one window hindi s'ya pwede mag-coach. So mahirap naman ata 'yung ganun," Panlilio moaned.
So yeah, it's also Baldwin's fault that we settled only for silver in the SEA Games last May, never mind if our team then had more than enough PBA All-Stars to bring home the gold medal.
BALDWIN TOOK PANLILIO'S SUCKER PUNCH LIKE A THREE-TIME UAAP CHAMP AND OFFERED ONLY A "NO COMMENT" WHEN I REACHED HIM EARLIER TODAY.
This is why Syria and other nations are chasing after Baldwin to run their basketball programs, throwing cash at him as if money has gone out of style. Because he is a statesman, a winner, and a doer who is more interested in solutions rather than excuses.
And while coach Tab chose to be the adult in this poopy hoops mess we are wallowing in, his allies aren't as willing to take the abuse.
After talking to several sources close to coach Tab, there is reason to believe Panlilio's tale is not necessarily the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. He seems to have parsed the facts the way a clever butcher obscures the fat in a pound of meat at the counter.
For instance, the job description of the contract Baldwin signed with SBP only says program director. So, how can he "step down" from a coaching position that he officially does not occupy?
If the SBP refutes this, Tab's camp challenges it to produce said contract.
Yes, Tab did beg off from coaching a window, but Panlilio forgot to mention that Baldwin, besides prioritizing Ateneo, had to rush to Florida to be with his ailing brother.
Begging off from one window is not a big deal. Chot Reyes, the current coach, did exactly the same thing when he asked Nenad Vucinic to pinch hit for him at the third Fiba qualifying window last June 30 in Auckland, New Zealand and last July 3 in Manila.
The bottomline here is that our program is in disarray. Not even Erik Speolstra, with Steve Kerr as his assistant, can take us anywhere without the proper preparation and the appropriate manpower.
The responsibility of making sure all the stakeholders are on the same page in order to put Gilas in the best position to win lies squarely on the lap of Panlilio, the federation president.
Pointing the finger at coach Tab is lazy, irresponsible. It smacks of the arrogance that makes us ordinary folks frown on guys like Panlilio, people in power who think they are infallible.
Panlilio keeps harping about making "sacrifices" for the country. So here's a suggestion. He already has two other jobs as PLDT's CEO and governor of Meralco, so why can't Al give up the SBP presidency and hand it over to someone who can actually fully devote his time to the program.
And if by any chance this plea goes directly from my lips to God's ears, I hope and pray that Panlilio vacates his spot to a highly-qualified basketball mind outside of the MVP umbrella.
You'd have to be deaf to not believe that disgruntled, angry fans have become less subservient to the corporate nepotism that seemed to have permeated within the SBP for years.
As I've said all along, there is a concerted effort from the powers that be to get rid of Baldwin altogether. His unmatched success as a program architect is making a lot of people uncomfortable.
Another shot has just been fired, this time with Panlilio holding the smoking gun.
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