|According to Al Panlilio, Tab Baldwin's decision to beg from Gilas coaching sparked the national team's current slump. FIBA (file photo)|
MANILA--Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio has basically pinned the blame on former Gilas Pilipinas men's team program director Tab Baldwin for the recent struggles the national team had.
Speaking for the first time after a few months in an interview over SEAG Network on Monday night, Panlilio said that if not for Baldwin letting go of the Gilas coaching job ahead of the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers February window to focus on his other chore as Ateneo head coach, Gilas' latest "predicament" would have not happened.
"Honestly, the predicament that we are in today is because of Tab. We've started losing players. He didn't want to coach the February window, so as a federation, we have to make decisions on how to move forward," Panlilio said.
He added, "[Tab begging off] was quite alarming for me. I felt like he was supposed to be the program director and the coach of the national team then bigla na lang one window sabi niya hindi siya pwedeng mag-coach. Mahirap naman nung ganun."
He then believes the struggles to build a Gilas roster to start 2022 was the main reason behind Baldwin backing out.
"I think he knew he had no team, and he had no chance of performing well after performing very well in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifying, beating Korea twice in the bubble, but at the same time, he also had three months to prepare that because everybody was in a bubble, so he had time to train the team," said Panlilio, who later revealed that it was Baldwin who recommended Chot Reyes to take over the Gilas coaching job.
Panlilio, however, admitted that bringing in the core of Reyes' TNT squad in the PBA was a "Band-aid solution" just for the national team to have a lineup for the February window.
Nevertheless, the basketball executive commended the multi-titled coach for taking on the challenge despite all the trials Gilas was facing all year long.
"In fairness to Chot--and I know there's a lot of bashers of Chot--he knew that he had no team for the February window. I think he only had six players available at that time. But still, he took on the job because we told him to do so. Filipino siya eh, and he could not turn his back on the flag even though he knew it was going to be difficult for him. So it's really admirable of Chot knowing that he might be facing a massive backlash if they didn't perform well," Panlilio added.
The criticisms on Reyes sparked when Gilas lost badly at home to New Zealand in the February window with some chants calling for Baldwin's return even echoing the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City that time.
The bashing went to a boiling point when Gilas lost to Indonesia in the de facto gold medal game in the Southeast Asian Games last May in Hanoi, dropping the Philippines out of the top spot for the first time since 1989.
Reyes returned to Gilas head coaching chores during the FIBA Asia Cup in Jakarta, but the team could only finish in ninth place, the worst since the program became the Philippine team's current incarnation and the worst in 13 years overall, further sparking the choice words by fans on him.
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