MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Vincent “Chot” Reyes is back as head coach for Philippine national men’s basketball team Gilas Pilipinas, the country’s basketball federation announced Tuesday, October 18.
In a Facebook Live on the Sports5 PH page, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director Sonny Barrios made the announcement to a room full of Gilas cadets with SBP director for international affairs and team manager Butch Antonio as well as sports agent Danny Espiritu.
Tab Baldwin, the American-New Zealander who took over for Reyes in 2014, will serve as consultant to the national team on top of his role as the Ateneo Blue Eagles’ head coach.
Reyes said in the Facebook Live announcement that Baldwin was informed of the decision Monday night.
“We want to go back to our winning formula, so to speak,” Barrios said. “Hindi naman ‘yan overnight [decision]. Medyo matagal na usap-usapan ‘yan (It wasn’t an overnight decision. It was a long discussion).”
This is not the first time Reyes and Baldwin will work together in these roles. Baldwin came on as consultant for the national team in the lead-up to the 2014 FIBA World Cup, where Reyes served as head coach.
“They’ve been talking to me about this for more than a month already,” Reyes said as he spoke to the cadets. “We thought about this. In the end mahirap talaga talikuran ang iyong bansa (In the end it’s difficult to turn your back on your country).”
Reyes, who became head of Sports5 after Gilas but has since ascended to become head of TV5, was originally named national team coach in 2012.
He led the team to a silver finish at the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship to qualify for the 2014 FIBA World Cup for the first time since 1978. The Philippines then defeated Senegal for its first World Cup game since 1974.
But that year Gilas also suffered a major setback at the Asian Games, finishing 7th, as they battled injuries coming off the World Cup. It was the country’s worst finish since pro players were allowed to play for the national team.
Meanwhile, Baldwin steered the Philippines to its second straight silver medal finish in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship. But the team failed to get a win in the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, snuffing out its hopes of making the Olympics for the first time in 44 years.
Gilas players must play in PBA
Reyes shared the very first priority in his program this time around is to ensure all Gilas players are in the PBA.
“If you play in the PBA you’re going to get in game shape, you’re going to get a lot of training, and more importantly it will teach you how to adapt – you’ll adapt to different teammates, different coaches, different systems, different situations,” he explained.
“So you’re going to be part of Gilas but you’re all going to be part of the PBA Draft. And my commitment to the PBA is every player who puts on the Gilas jersey is going to be part of the PBA Draft.”
The PBA and the SBP are still finalizing details of a special draft for the Gilas pool of players, alongside the regular Rookie Draft, which is slated for October 30.
But the Gilas program moving forward will be composed of 12 players from the cadets team, who are set to join the PBA this year, and 12 other professional players from every PBA team.
Players part of the 24-man pool may be pulled out from the PBA when needed for competitions with the national team.
“For me part of the training, the successful formula is we have a group of players playing in the PBA but when we need them, we’re pulling you out early for 30 days, 60 days to train as Gilas,” Reyes explained.
This is all part of the Philippines adjusting its basketball program to the new FIBA calendar which essentially stretches out qualifying tournaments year round until the 2019 World Championships and the 2020 Olympics, meaning it will coincide with most pro league seasons.
“The PBA is going to let at least one player per team to be part of this pool. With the number of tournaments we have to participate in, I don’t know if it can be one team that can play in all of those tournaments,” Reyes said.
“So they’re all different, SEABA, SEA Games, FIBA Asia, World Cup Qualifiers. With all those tournaments we cannot survive with one team only. We need a pool of players.”
The 12 cadets part of the 24-man pool were present at the meeting: Von Pessumal, Carl Bryan Cruz, Matthew Wright, Arnold Van Opstal, Ed Daquioag, RR Pogoy, Jio Jalalon, Mac Belo, Kevin Ferrer, Russell Escoto, Almond Vosotros, and Mike Tolomia.
“The plan is very clear. We’re going to put together the best group of players not in the PBA plus the best from the PBA, form a pool, and that’s going to be where the future Gilas teams are going to come from,” Reyes further explained.
“We want to be ready to have the best representation for the 2019 World Championships and at the same time prepare us for the 2020 Olympics.”
It is still unclear whether there will be exceptions to the pullout of pool members from the PBA, such as if they are playing in the finals.
Reyes detailed to the cadets the big responsibility they are about to undertake, saying they will have to juggle trainings and games for both the national team and their PBA ballclubs without guarantee they will all make it to the final 12 to be sent out to competitions.
“I cannot promise you a slot in the final 12. I cannot promise you will be there in the World Championships or the Olympics. I can only promise you one thing: that is if you devote your full potential, your entire self and your entire being to this program, you will come out of it as better people and as better players,” he said.
“It’s not going to be easy. It’s a lot of responsibility but it will be a lot of fun.” – Rappler.com