by Michael Jugado
A FILIPINO coach should still man the steering wheel for Gilas Pilipinas.
That’s the opinion of former national team tactician Chot Reyes as the job remains vacant.
“We don’t need a foreign coach. We’ve tried it before,” said Reyes during a coaching webinar organized by Hoop Coaches International.
“I love Tab (Baldwin). I love Mark Dickel. I was the one who brought Tab here. I’ve had great relationships with Rajko Toroman. And you know how close I am to Tim (Cone) and you know how close I am with coach Norman (Black). I’ve huge, huge respect for foreign coaches.
“But in the end, where did it take us? Where have we gone with the foreign coaches?”
Reyes, 56, guided the Philippines to a historic return to the FIBA World Cup in 2014 after winning a silver medal in the 2013 FIBA Asia championship in Manila.
He supports the idea of having a foreign strategist on the team’s brain thrust but believes only a Filipino can put his heart out in calling the shots for Gilas in international play.
“What we did in our system with a Filipino coach and we made sure we had very good foreign talent in our coaching staff. In our world championship staff, I had Tab, I had Nacho Escano, I had Norman Black, all these great coaches,” said Reyes.
“But I think the Filipino coach is the one who is going to be able to capture the heart of the Filipino. Maski gaano kagaling iyong foreign coach, wala siyang pusong Pinoy. At hindi nila maiintindihan iyon kasi tayo lang makakaintindi noon. Iyon talagang magpapakamatay tayo.”
Gilas’ “Puso!” mantra proved to be a double-edged sword in Reyes’ stint.
On July 2, 2018, Gilas figured in a ugly brawl with visiting Australia in their World Cup qualifier duel at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
Reyes was meted a five-game suspension for the melee, and was later replaced by Yeng Guiao, who coached the Filipino dribblers until the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China before stepping down after the Philippines wound up dead-last among 32 teams.
“Yes, minsan mapapaaway tayo and I know we’ve gone through hell and gotten so much flak for that. But kung talagang Pinoy ka, hindi ka talaga magpapatalo. Anong sabi natin sa Tagalog noon? Patay kung patay. Ganoon talaga. Kung ayaw niyo, eh di palitan niyo na lang kami. Let me ask you. Meron bang foreign coach na ganun?” Reyes posed.
“Nothing against them (foreign coaches). I think they are great for Philippine and local basketball. I think they give a lot of value, especially to other upcoming coaches. But in the end, just take a look at the results where the Filipino coaches have been able to take the national team.”
For Reyes, success internationally will boil down to the full support of the people and organizations involved with the national team. “Whether it’s a Filipino or a local coach, the important thing is full support. Players, resources, time to practice, that’s the more important thing,” he said.
“Let’s get a foreign coach and I know they are talking about (bringing in) some European coach. And then what? He will come here to practice every Monday once a week.”
Gilas last saw action in the first window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers campaign where it ripped Indonesia 100-70 last Feb. 24 under interim coach Mark Dickel.
The Nationals were set to clash with Thailand last Feb. 20 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum but the match was called off due to the deadly coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Gilas’ next games are supposed to be in November this year and in February next year, but with the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, both windows have yet to be confirmed.