SEVILLE, SPAIN - Argentina coach Julio Lamas admitted he knew very little about the Philippines until Tuesday night, other than the fact that Filipinos love their basketball.
He certainly knew a lot more before the night was over.
Lamas got a rude introduction to Philippine basketball 101 in the Fiba World Cup when Gilas Pilipinas gave the former world and Olympic champions the scare of their lives before falling, 81-85, amid tension-filled scenes at the Centro Deportivo San Pablo Pavilion.
Argentina, ranked No. 3 in the world, fell behind by 10 several times and nearly blew a 15-point third-quarter lead, their 50-year-old coach not heaving a sigh of relief until Pablo Prigioni made the defensive stop on Jayson Castro and Andres Nocioni made the clinching free throws.
Lamas agreed with Gilas coach Chot Reyes' view that the one final gambit when the Argentina coach put in Facundo Campazzo to enable his players to switch on all the Filipino shooters in the final play was the key to the win.
"Last defense (was key). I put in Campazzo to have the switch on all the shooters," he told Spin.ph. "It was a very tough game and Pilipinas had a chance to win and we, too. The last defense won game."
The Argentina coach reiterated that the close call was the "most uncomfortable" he had to coach in his life, not only because Gilas was still new to most of its opponents here but also because the Filipinos play a style vastly different from the Argentines.
"Very, very different style, Argentina and Philippines. We play half-court set basketball, the Philippines plays run and gun and faster than we're used to," he said.
"If we play Argentina style, we win. If we play Pilipinas style, they win," he added. "First quarter, Pilipinas style. Second and third quarter, Argentina style. Fourth quarter, Pilipinas basketball."
Lamas, who has won three championships in the Argentine League and one in Spain's second division and has been in and out of the national team since 1998, said he was in no position to gauge the future of Philippine basketball because he hasn't seen enough to make a fair judgement.
"I don't know a lot about Pilipinas basketball, it's my first time to coach against them," he said. "I heard many times Pilipinas one of the top two, three places in the world with most (basketball) fanatic people, (But) I've never been to Pilipinas, so I don't know the future of Pilipinas basketball."
But from what he saw on Tuesday night, he saw only one reason why the Philippines has come close to beating some of the best teams in the world.
"They play very well, they're different because they feel this basketball, they play with passion," he said.