SEVILLE, SPAIN - There were mixed emotions for Chot Reyes, shortly after leading Gilas Pilipinas to an 81-79 win over Senegal on Thursday night in the Fiba World Cup.
Although happy to win the Philippines' first World Cup game in four decades, Reyes said he couldn't help but feel a tinge of regret over losses in three games decided by four points or less - anyone of which could've given Gilas a ticket to the knockout phase in Madrid.
"The feeling of course is of elation but there's also a lot of panghihinayang because we should be going to Madrid now," said the multi-titled coach, looking back at close losses to world No. 16 Croatia, world No. 3 Argentina and Puerto Rico in the group stage.
"One lucky bounce here, one lucky bounce there ... the Croatia game with the lucky shot (in the end) ... Andray (Blatche) had the opportunity for the winning shot against Argentina. Had he converted it, we should be heading to Madrid now.
"There just kinda a tinge of regret for that."
Still, Reyes said there's a reason to be happy for the 1-4 (win-loss) record, although he admitted that going winless here would've been a major disappointment considering the raised expectations back home after the run of near-misses against the world's top teams.
"Before coming over, we knew that our best chance for a win was against Senegal because they were ranked below us in the rankings. But they came here and started playing a lo better than their ranking," he said. "So we thought that if we get a 1-4 (win-loss) record here we'll be doing very well.
"Unfortunately, we became the victim of our own early success as everyone in the Philippines got to think, 'Oh, we could beat these teams.' Afterall, we lost four games by a total of 20 points."
The Gilas coach admitted winning at this level isn't easy, especially for a basketball-crazy nation that has not reached this far since the 1974 world championships in Puerto Rico.
"It's been 40 years since we last won in the World Cup, none of my players were in fact born the last time we won here. So unless you're in this kind of environment, you really don't know what to expect. Like in this ballgame, in the endgame we froze, because we're not used to it.
"They are all superstars with their commercial teams in the PBA, but it's different when you have the Philippines (infront of your uniform). It's a lot heavier. It takes a lot of getting used to, really."
Still, Reyes said the win over Senegal is one signnificant step that he hopes would lead to bigger things for Philippine basketball.
"We showed in the whole tournament that we belong and that we can compete, and tonight we showed that we can win," Reyes said. "I'm not making excuses, but we really lack the experience to win at this level. But hopefully, this leads to bigger things for Philippine basketball."