ELEVEN years after the Asian Games heartbreak in Busan, South Korea, Jong Uichico is set to return as coach of the national team bound for the Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar in December.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) executive director Sonny Barrios said no official appointment has been made but admitted that Uichico will be named to the national head coaching position in the following days.
Barrios said he is set to meet with Gilas Pilipinas team manager Butch Antonio on Friday to firm up the plan to tap Uichico, who he said is the most logical choice among the current pool of national coaches.
“Mukhang siya nga talaga, kasi lahat busy ngayon eh. Siya lang ang walang masasabing mabigat-bigat na commitment,” said Barrios.
Uichico was part of the coaching staff of the Gilas Pilipinas team that placed second to the Hamed Haddadi-led Iran national squad in the last Fiba Asia championships in Manila in August.
And although Meralco just clinched a seat in the semifinals of the ongoing PBA Governors’ cup, Barrios doesn’t see any conflict for Uichico who is a coaching consultant in Ryan Gregorio's team.
“Team consultant naman siya eh. So most likely available siya,” said Barrios.
The SEA Games stint will mark the return to the national coaching job for Uichico, a multi-titled coach in the PBA who saw his all-pro Philippine team lose to Korea in the Busan Asiad semifinals, 66-68, on Lee Sang Min's last-gasp three-pointer.
Uichico is set to handle a team composed of top amateur and collegiate players to be led by Gilas cadet pool members Kevin Louie Alas, Matt Ganuelas, Garvo Lanete, Jake Pascual, Ronald Pascual and RR Garcia in the Myanmar Games set from December 11-22.
However, the team could end up taking in pro players if the SBP relents to the wishes of the Philippine Olympic Committee, which has expressed its desire to have a "sure winner" in Myanmar.
[For full story, see SBP stands pat on plan to set Douthit-reinforced cadet team to SEA Games]
Barrios bared Uichico’s appointment could have been formalized on Wednesday if not for the busy schedule of Antonio, who is also the team manager of Meralco in the pro league.
“Bukas ipa-finalize na namin yan. Pati yung schedule ng practice and everything,” said the SBP official.