Philippine basketball

Who is newly installed Gilas Pilipinas coach Nenad Vucinic?

Ariel Ian Clarito
Who is newly installed Gilas Pilipinas coach Nenad Vucinic?

ESTABLISHED COACH. Nenad Vucinic brings with him a deep well of experience and valuable knowledge that could come in handy for Gilas Pilipinas.


Nenad Vucinic will coach Gilas Pilipinas in the third window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, where the country will face New Zealand and India

MANILA, Philippines – Nenad Vucinic has been tasked to handle the coaching reins of a young Gilas Pilipinas squad that is preparing for the third window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers. 

The national squad will be hoping for a better result when they take on the New Zealand Tall Blacks in Auckland on June 30. Gilas comes home after to face India at the Mall of Asia Arena on July 3. Before the third window, Gilas will take its training to the city of Angyang in Korea, where it play two tuneup games against the hosts from June 17 to 18.

The road ahead will be arduous for the national squad, especially against the Tall Blacks, who gave the Chot Reyes-mentored Gilas team a 25-point beatdown at home last February 27 in the second window.

Vucinic brings with him a deep well of experience and valuable knowledge that could come in handy for Gilas as they plot how to put together a better showing compared to their disjointed performance in February.

He has coached at the highest level of international basketball and he also knows the New Zealand Tall Blacks rather well. 

Now 57 years old, Vucinic was New Zealand’s head coach for eight years from 2007 to 2014. He led the Tall Blacks to the championship of the 2011 FIBA Stankovic Cup, where they defeated Russia in the finals. 

Under Vucinic’s tutelage, the Tall Blacks played in two editions of the FIBA World Cup. 

In the group stage of the 2010 FIBA World Cup in Turkey, the Tall Blacks defeated Lebanon, Canada, and France to earn a spot in the knockout stage. However, they were knocked out in the round of 16 by Russia.

In the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain where Gilas also qualified, New Zealand advanced anew to the round of 16, where it was eliminated by eventual fourth placer Lithuania.

Current Tall Blacks head coach and FIBA Hall of Famer, the legendary Pero Cameron, played for Vucinic in the 2010 FIBA World Cup. Cameron became one of Vucinic’s assistant coaches for the New Zealand national team in 2011, so it is safe to assume the two know each other extensively.

“He always challenged everyone to be better while being supportive, always building your confidence. I know the general New Zealand public has no idea what an influence he has on the world stage in our sport,” said Cameron after Vucinic resigned as Tall Blacks head coach.

“His meticulous planning and creativity as a coach is something I aspire to.”

Vucinic himself has worn the Tall Blacks jersey when he played for the New Zealand national team for 11 years, culminating in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Vucinic’s daugher, Jelena, played US NCAA Division 1 basketball for Louisiana Tech and also has suited up for the New Zealand women’s national basketball team, the Tall Ferns.

Originally from Serbia, Vucinic started playing professionally in the 1980s in the old Yugoslavia. Among the teams he was part of was Radnicki, the club that Jack Animam played for in Serbia. 

He then moved to New Zealand in 1989 where he spent the rest of his playing career with the Nelson Giants. He ended up becoming the playing-coach, full-time coach, and part owner of the ballclub. He coached the Giants to two New Zealand National Basketball League titles and holds the record for most career coaching wins in the NBL.

Vucinic eventually explored coaching opportunities outside of New Zealand which led him to land jobs in professional leagues in Estonia, Turkey, Italy, Lebanon, China, and Japan. 

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas has made it clear that Vucinic’s stint with Gilas is only for the third window. There have been speculations that Vucinic is merely a coach in transition as the Gilas program awaits for the return of Tab Baldwin. According to observes, the fact that Vucinic was given the role of Gilas head coach, albeit on an interim basis, speaks of the still palpable influence of Baldwin, who is responsible for bringing Vucinic to the Philippines. Vucinic served as Baldwin’s assistant coach for the Tall Blacks and is considered a Baldwin protege. 

The SBP, however, has maintained thet Reyes remains the Gilas head coach and is merely preoccupied in his role as the TNT mentor. Reyes himself has been speaking to the media about Gilas in his capacity as national team head coach and program director. 

Whatever the case, the SBP and Gilas fans can be assured that the man at the helm of the national team, at least for the next FIBA window, is a seasoned and consummate professional who knows the international game probably as well as Baldwin does. –