Dondon Hontiveros seeks refuge at Gilas practice after another finals heartbreak
Gilas coach Tab Baldwin says Dondon Hontiveros has what it takes to be a good coach. "Every opportunity that I can help him with, I would jump to help him,” Baldwin says. Jerome Ascano

DONDON Hontiveros appeared to make Gilas Pilipinas his refuge as he paid a visit to national practice on Thursday afternoon, a day after Alaska lost to Rain or Shine in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals.

The Aces marksman, whose team finished as runner-up for the third straight time – and fourth over the last five conferences, went with son Isaiah and some of his nephews who also wanted to take a picture with Hontiveros’ former national teammates.

National coach Tab Baldwin said the Gilas 3.0 skipper is always welcome to show up in training.

“Dondon loves Gilas and we love him,” the American-Kiwi mentor said. “He’s here because he loves us. I appreciate him, (but) he doesn’t have to be here for me to appreciate him.”

“I know where his sentiment and heart is,” he added. “And he’s just a very valued person to me and the program.”

[See Fajardo sad to see 'tag-team partner' Slaughter miss out on Gilas stint]

The 38-year-old Hontiveros, who earlier signified his desire to be a coach after he retires, also probably used his visit to learn coaching pointers from Baldwin.

“Kung bigyan ako ng opportunity ni Coach Tab, oo,” Hontiveros beamed. “Pero kahit sandali ka lang manood kay Coach Tab, marami kang matutunan eh.

“Even how he motivates, how he talks, iba yung dating ni coach Tab,” he added. “Hopefully, mabigyan ng break.”

And Baldwin welcomes being a mentor to Hontiveros.

“Nothing designed or specific, but anytime that he wants anything from me, he’s only going to ask,” the former New Zealand national team coach said. “He has full access. Every opportunity that I can help him with, I would jump to help him.”

Baldwin believes Hontiveros has the “materials” to be a good coach someday.

“Coaches aren’t born – they’re made from hard work, and I’ve seen him work and I don’t have any question about his ability to work hard,” he said. “So I don’t see any reason why he can’t be a good coach.”

“But he needs experience and he needs to learn,” he added. “So by being here, he’s obviously taking those steps seriously.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos