IN a move aimed at synchronizing the country’s international basketball program, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas-PBA search and selection committee expanded the role of Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin to put two other national teams for two more regional tournaments under his command.
Baldwin, who took over the Gilas job from Chot Reyes last December, was named head coach in a concurrent capacity of the national squad bound for the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) tournament in April and the Southeast Asian Games in June, both to be held in Singapore.
“We expect Coach Tab to take off running as men's national team head coach and that is why it is best he gets his feet wet early,” said SBP executive director Sonny Barrios. “Aside from successfully defending our crowns at Seaba and SEA Games, he is tasked at leading our men's team to qualifying for the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics by winning the Fiba Asia qualifying in Hunan."
Before Baldwin's role was expanded, SBP had considered local coaches like Junel Baculi, Eric Altamirano, Nash Racela and Louie Alas for the SEA Games-bound team.
The Seaba competition on April 27 to May 4 is the qualifying tournament for the Fiba Asia Championship on September 23 to October 3 in Hunan, China where the champion team will represent the region to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Both the Seaba and SEA Games teams will be bannered by Gilas Cadets, led by Keifer Ravena, Ray-Ray Parks and Garvo Lanete, plus 6-foot-11 naturalized player Marcus Douthit.
The Philippines finished second behind Iran in the 17th Fiba Asia Championship which the country hosted at the Mall of Asia Arena two years ago, paving the way for the country’s return to the global stage after more than three decades via the 17th Fiba Basketball World Cup in Spain last year.
Powered by Blatche, Gilas Pilipinas waged memorable battles with world cage powers Croatia, Argentina and Puerto Rico in Seville before capping its historic participation by beating Senegal in overtime, 81-79, for the country’s first victory in the world championship in 40 years.
The 28th SEA Games, which Philippine basketball teams have ruled with an iron hand save for the 1989 edition, is set from June 5-16.
Baldwin, born in Jacksonville, Florida before moving to New Zealand, has coached the national teams of Malaysia, New Zealand, Lebanon and Jordan, and is expected, upon consultation with Manny V. Pangilinan and other top SBP officials, to begin forming the latest edition Gilas squad next week, starting with his coaching staff.
On tap for Gilas in the next few months is the William Jones Cup Invitational in Taipei in July and yet to be announced foreign trips now and later before the nationals and Baldwin fly to Hunan, China where they are expected to be joined by Blatche.
Meantime, Patrick Aquino, coach of the UAAP basketball champion National University Lady Bulldogs, will take over the helm from erstwhile PH women’s team mentor Haydee Ong, while the SBP hopes to appoint within the next few days the successor to former Gilas Under-16 coach Jamike Jarin, who was named coach of five-peat NCAA champion San Beda.
Cagayan de Oro City and Xavier University are hosting on April 10-21 the Seala U16 tourney, the qualifier to the Fiba Asia tournament reportedly in Bangalore, India.