MANILA, Philippines – Former Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin denied talks that he prompted top players like Dwight Ramos and Thirdy Ravena to take their talents overseas.
Baldwin, who still coaches the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the UAAP, said he did not “act as an agent for any particular facet of the industry” – a rumor that said to have triggered his departure from the national team program.
Ramos, Ravena, and several other young stars who opted to play professionally in Japan and other Asian countries played under Baldwin in the Ateneo or the Gilas program.
“That’s absolute nonsense,” said Baldwin in an interview with Philippine Sports Commission chairman Noli Eala on Power and Play.
“I don’t want those players to leave the Gilas program. As far as their decision about their future, I want players to have options. I want them to be free to exercise their options.”
The exodus of top players not only impacted the local pro league but also Gilas Pilipinas as it affected the players’ availability for the national team program.
“It’s not in my best interest, it is not obviously in the PBA’s best interest that players go overseas,” said Baldwin.
“But what is my role as the Ateneo head coach? My role is an educator… to help my players achieve their full potential so they can go out and get the best jobs for themselves that they want.”
Baldwin flatly denied working as an agent for his players.
“My job is not to act as an agent for any particular facet of the industry that they’re going into, and I don’t do that in any way, shape or form,” he said.
“All I do is to try and educate my players, and then if they come to me for advice about their future, I’ll offer that. But that’s between me and the player. But no way am I acting on behalf of any entity outside the Ateneo university.”
Baldwin said his relationship with the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) has been “strained over the last six months.”
The Gilas Pilipinas program had hit a tough stretch following the departure of Baldwin and the return of Chot Reyes as national team coach and program director last January.
Reyes has been under fire since then as the national team shockingly fell short of a gold in the Southeast Asian Games and missed the quarterfinals in the FIBA Asia Cup, prompting calls for his resignation.
Fans also made their feelings known by booing Reyes during the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers in Manila last August.
“I really want the fans, in spite of what they feel, I want them to support the team. I genuinely want that,” said Baldwin amid calls on social media to fire Reyes and bring the American-Kiwi mentor back to the Gilas program.
“It doesn’t mean coaches don’t deserve criticism… that’s part of being a coach. It has just gone too far,” he added.
“It has gone to the extent where people are not supporting the program. And even if they say they are, and they’re just against Chot, I don’t think they realized the impact on the team of this level of criticism.”
Baldwin said the bashing and on-court heckling Reyes receives hurt the entire team.
“It isn’t supporting the team. It’s hurting the team even though people might be targeting their criticism only on the coach. It doesn’t work that way,” he said.
“I know, I’ve been in that position. Not to this extent, but I know that players come in and they look at you, they feel sorry for you, they feel sorry for themselves.”
But if there’s any good development, Baldwin said he recently received a text message from SBP president Al Panlilio.
Baldwin did not divulge the details, but said he’s “very grateful for it.”
“So obviously, I don’t want to call it the healing process, but obviously the process of communication is underway,” he said.
It’s not a sign, too, that Baldwin is heading back to Gilas, noting that Reyes remains on top of the national team program.
“Will my inclusion be a positive for the program and the team? That is a complex question and a complex answer,” said Baldwin, adding that any coach doesn’t want to be imposed on by others.
“But from my position, if I can help, and I’m trying to help now, and if this is the sum total of the help that I can give, it’s fine. But if it does help, great. So you know, I want to leave it at that.” – Rappler.com