GILAS Pilipinas consultant Tab Baldwin is counting on crowd support to help lift the national team to success in the Fiba-Asia championship this weekend.
Baldwin said he is very much impressed by the strong fan support since the tournament kicked off last week.
“The crowd’s just spectacular,” said Baldwin, who has witnessed the strong fan support Gilas has been getting since the national team opened the tournament with a 78-66 victory over Saudi Arabia.
The 55-year-old former Lebanon and Jordan national coach said he’s never seen such an animated crowd as the Filipinos since his college playing days at the University of Notre Dame during the 1977-1978 US NCAA season.
“Probably not (seen this kind of crowd) in New Zealand. I mean, not this size in Lebanon but same passion. Not in Jordan, but I think it’s going back to my youth in the University of Notre Dame, for some of the games we played in the Final Four in 1977 to 1978,” recalled the Jacksonville, Florida native, who has also coached the New Zealand Tall Blacks basketball team.
Baldwin said he likes the fact that Filipino fans could easily organize a simple wave that goes all around the Mall of Asia Arena, the official playing venue of the Asian championships.
“Togetherness, passion for the game, I mean, they (Filipino fans) organize the wave better than anybody. They chant Gary’s (David) name, they chant whatever is appropriate for the moment. It’ so great to have the opportunity here, this is spectacular,” beamed the soft-spoken coach.
Baldwin mentioned that the semifinals and the gold-medal game bring so much pressure to Gilas Pilipinas, but with the veritable “sixth man” supporting them all the way, he said the national players could easily feed off the energy from there.
“The higher the stake, the better the teams, the bigger the challenge. And with these 20,000 people, we see the importance of them here,” he said.
“It’s gone from being they (Filipino players) feeling pressure to something where they gain the energy and focus.”