Will Tab Baldwin return to help Gilas program?

Ateneo de Manila University head coach Tab Baldwin. UAAP Media.
Ateneo de Manila University head coach Tab Baldwin. UAAP Media.

MANILA, Philippines — Ateneo de Manila University head coach Tab Baldwin is always willing to help the Philippine national team, but he made it clear that it’s not his decision to make.

Baldwin recently broke his silence regarding his controversial exit from the Gilas Pilipinas program earlier this year, explaining in an interview on “Power and Play” that he wanted to clear the air due in part to the critical response to the country’s basketball leadership in recent months.

The Ateneo coach acknowledged his share of the blame for what happened, and admitted that his relationship with the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) has been “strained” in the past few months. However, the bridges between the two parties have not been burned entirely.

“I received a text message, I’m very grateful for, from Boss Al, last night,” Baldwin said, referring to SBP president Al Panlilio. “So obviously, I don’t want to call it a healing process, but obviously the process of communication is underway.”

Asked by Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman Noli Eala if he was still willing to help the Gilas program in any way, Baldwin was quick with his answer.

“[I] always have been. There’s no prevarication on my part for that,” he said.

But he also immediately stressed that this is not his decision to make, as he has no intention to step on the toes of Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes who now also serves as the program director. 

“I think this should totally be Chot’s decision, nobody else’s. If I was in Chot’s shoes, I wouldn’t want anybody telling me who I should have on my staff, and who I should be assembling,” said Baldwin. 

“Chot has to make that decision not just based on, ‘Am I a good coach?’ He has to make that decision — if he’s even thinking about that decision — based on would my inclusion be a positive for the program and the team,” he added.

“And that is a complex question, and a complex answer. I don’t think any of us should just think of that and look at it very simply as, ‘Would Coach Tab’s coaching knowledge and experience be a benefit to the team?’ It’s much, much more than that.”

Coach Chot Reyes leads Gilas Pilipinas in the game against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers in Pasay City on August 29, 2022. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News
Coach Chot Reyes leads Gilas Pilipinas in the game against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers in Pasay City on August 29, 2022. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Baldwin said he does not want to add any more pressure on Reyes, who has been under fire ever since he took over as Gilas head coach in February. The criticisms of the Filipino basketball fans reached fever point when Gilas Pilipinas lost to Indonesia in the Southeast Asian Games in May, failing to bring home the gold for the first time in three decades.

The fans’ demands for Baldwin’s return increased after the team’s ill-fated campaign in the FIBA Asia Cup, and they made their feelings toward Reyes known when they vociferously booed the coach ahead of Gilas’ game against Saudi Arabia. 

After pleas from Jordan Clarkson and Dwight Ramos to give more respect to Reyes fell mostly on deaf ears, Baldwin hopes that his decision to break his silence will be more well-received by Gilas fans. 

“After the Saudi game, I was sad. I guess that’s the best way to put it, I was disheartened,” he admitted. “It’s not good for the team.”

“Dwight Ramos and Jordan Clarkson speaking out, I think that was the example that I needed. Their courage, kind of gave me the courage that it took,” he added.

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