By Ivan Saldajeno
QUEZON CITY--Exactly 24 years ago, a 29-year-old upstart named Vincent Reyes set PBA history by becoming the youngest coach to win his first title after leading Coney Island (now Star) to the 1993 Philippine Cup title that helped him take the Coach of the Year plum.
Seven PBA championships, four Coach of the Year awards, and many national team call-ups later, Reyes, better known by his nickname Chot, is once again walking away with the gold, leading Gilas to the SEABA title by beating Indonesia in the final on Thursday night.
Reyes revealed that this is the first time as national team coach that he clinched an international championship at home.
But for him, this is his team's story.
"I told [Gabe Norwood and Ranidel De Ocampo], 'That's part of history, but it is time for this group of Gilas [players] to write their own story,'" Reyes told the media after the title clincher at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
He had one message to his team before the game, though.
"I reminded the players to play in a way that honors what the previous Gilas teams have started--the kind of culture and tradition that we built," Reyes bared.
He then relayed what Assistant Coach Jimmy Alapag told the Nationals, which for Reyes is sweeter to hear.
"I felt Jimmy put it very well when he said that it's very rare to get a chance to play for the championship in front of your hometown and our kababayans. Jimmy said, 'Relish, cherish, and take advantage of the opportunity,'" Reyes revealed.
It was exactly what Gilas did on Thursday night, dealing Indonesia, now at full force with Arki Wisnu and Jamarr Johnson around, a 34-point rout.
"I felt we did a good job. The first team did a great job getting us off to a good start. We knew we're going to be tested, and I felt we were successful," Reyes evaluated their performance.
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