AS Gilas Pilipinas faces the prospects of facing both China and Iran in the knockout rounds of the Fiba-Asia championships following the loss to Chinese Taipei on Saturday, former Jordan national coach Tab Baldwin insists all is not lost for the host country.
Baldwin, having seen both China and Iran play in the first round of the preliminaries, is convinced the two Asian giants are not unbeatable as most people may think.
Baldwin, of course, knows whereof he speaks.
The American coach was the architect of Jordan's 88-84 quarterfinal victory over Iran in the 2011 Fiba-Asia tournament in Wuhan, China that put an end to the West Asian powerhouse team’s drive for a third straight Asian basketball title.
This same Baldwin-coached team also booted out Gilas, then mentored by Rajko Toroman, in the semifinals via a 75-61 win, before taking the Chinese all the way to the wire before losing, 70-69, in the final.
“Iran and China, they are the class of the Asian region, but they not unbeatable as we have proven a few years ago with Jordan beating Iran and losing by one point to China on their (own) court,” said the 55-year-old Baldwin, who is in Manila to help out Gilas coach Chot Reyes.
"These teams are beatable," he insisted.
After a 79-84 defeat to Taipei at the end of its group-stage campaign, Gilas is in line to meet defending champion China in the knockout quarterfinals and, assuming the hosts get past that, Iran in the semis. (For full story, see Gilas fallout from Taipei loss: a likely quarters clash with China and a semis duel with Iran)
Unlike the United States which has reigned supreme in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics in Beijing and London, respectively, China and Iran have their own weaknesses, Baldwin said.
“This is not like a zone like the USA can dominate. It’s not like that. They (Chinese and Iranians) are the favorites, but they can be beaten, especially by a Filipino team on a Filipino court,” added the Jacksonville, Florida native, who has also coached New Zealand's national team.
Baldwin is expected to stay for the duration of the Fiba-Asia men’s tournament, which runs until August 11 as he helps Gilas in scouting and other vital aspects of its pre-game preparations.
Gilas defeated Baldwin’s Hawke’s Bay Hawks two straight times during its 10-day trip to New Zealand three weeks ago as part of its preparation for the Fiba-Asia tournament, where the top three teams will earn slots in next year’s World Championship.