Mendoza: Did Baldwin abandon a sinking ship?

Valentin Dakuykoy has somehow said it best: “Stars not aligned to Gilas program.”

He was referring to Tab Baldwin’s basketball thrust designed to hopefully make Gilas a power again in Asian basketball.

“Did Baldwin blow the program himself?”

Valentin Dakuykoy’s reply: “Of course, not. With Baldwin’s stars off course, naturally, it resulted in his train going off the rails.”

Is that one way of saying Baldwin abandoned the ship when it was about to sink?

Well, Baldwin’s band of promising cadets was jumping ship one by one. Some of them weren’t even saying their proper goodbye.

I refer to some of the Gilas players—including the lineup’s stars themselves leading desertion moves—signing for overseas work.

They can’t be blamed, in fairness. With contracts much too high than what the biggest stars in the Philippine Basketball Association receive being offered to them, to hell with principles.

Even Japan’s second-rate leagues dangle salaries at Filipino players that are much bigger than the PBA’s highest-paid stars like the 6-foot-10 June Mar Fajardo of San Miguel Beer.

Sad, but money dictates oftentimes upon both the head and the heart.

What hurts the most is, the player exodus sadly sideswipes the almost bounden duty to serve the flag and country. For, without a doubt, Gilas has always been the trademark symbol of basketball patriotism—the engine to set aside personal gratification in favor of national interest.

Baldwin did try to slug it out with what’s left of his decimated lineup. But then, there’s another enemy more lethal than player desertions: Covid-19.

With the virus still on the loose, lockdowns made it impossible for Baldwin to pursue his Gilas program. Worst, he couldn’t just raid PBA teams to get replacements for his departing stars.

So that with Chot Reyes taking over Baldwin’s coaching chores, the TNT mentor can easily tap his Tropa troopers with the least resistance for extra service at Gilas.

And look. With Baldwin out of the bind, he can now freely tend to his Ateneo coaching job, where he is under contract for five years. He is gunning for a fourth straight Ateneo crown in this year’s UAAP season.

In quitting Gilas, Baldwin bags a good out. As in poker.

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