SEVILLE, SPAIN - Julio Lamas has been in and out of Argentina's national team program since 1998. He has also won three Argentine league championships and one Spanish second division title in a coaching career spanning decades.
But Argentina's veteran coach swore he has never seen anything like Gilas Pilipinas.
"The Philippines plays a very strange style of basketball we've never seen," admitted Lamas after the world's third-ranked team survived the scare of its life, 85-81, against a squad ranked 31 rungs below it in the world rankings. "But they play to their full potential."
Until the close call on Monday night (Tuesday morning, Manila time), Lamas knew little of the Filipinos, who have not reached this level for 35 years - or not since the 1978 world championships was held in Manila and the Philippines gained automatic entry as host.
In fact, the Philippines and Argentina last squared off back in 1974, which was also the last time the Philippines qualified for this tournament.
Argentina won that 1974 game in Puerto Rico and won the rematch 40 years later, but not after enduring a rough night that saw the 2004 Olympic champions fall behind by 10 points a couple of times against the hot-starting Filipinos.
"They made us look like fools in the first quarter," Lamas admitted later before a horde of journalists inside the press center.
See highlights of the game in this Fiba.com video:
Argentina, getting a big lift from NBA veteran Andres Nocioni in the second half, came alive in the third quarter and appeared to have put out the fire by going 15 points up, 68-53, only to see Gilas come within one possession of stealing the win in the endgame behind Jimmy Alapag's five three-pointers.
Not until Nocioni hit two free throws with 6.6 seconds left, 85-81, did Lamas finally heave a sigh of relief after what a game that he said was his most harrowing as a coach.
"This is the most uncomfortable game I had to coach in my life," he said.