Chot Reyes has every reason to be optimistic in his second tour of duty as coach of the Philippine national men’s basketball team.
Earlier this week, an announcement was made that Reyes would be leaving his post as coach of Talk ‘N Text after this season to take over the helm of the SMART-Gilas Pilipinas national program, which will be competing for a spot in the world championships in next year’s FIBA Asia tournament.
Reyes led the Philippine team to a disappointing ninth-place finish in the 2007 edition of the Asian cage competition, but said that he expects to do better next year.
“I am optimistic because of the new format [of the tournament], presence of a naturalized player plus more than the three months preparation we had in 2007,” he said, adding that SMART-Gilas management and staff will convene next week “to plot the team’s timetable.”
Reyes is still haunted by Philippine team’s ninth-place finish under his helm.
“We were a victim of a bad grouping and bad format then,” said Reyes, whose team was bracketed in the preliminary round in the “Group of Death” that also featured powerhouse teams China, Jordan, and Iran, which eventually won the title. Only two teams from each group made it past the first round, leaving the Philippines to fend for itself in the consolation bracket.
The tournament format for FIBA Asia competitions has since changed.
Reyes said that the 2007 experience, as well as his stint as a SMART-Gilas assistant under coach Rajko Toroman has helped him learn a lot. He added that the Serbian coach, who led SMART-Gilas to a fourth-place finish in the FIBA Asia tournament last year, had an opportunity to continue to be part of the team.
“I would love to have him on the team, but he turned down MVP’s offer to be a consultant,” said Reyes.
In a previous report by InterAKTV, Toroman said he wasn’t offered a contract extension as coach by Manuel V. Pangilinan, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president. The coach ended up signing a deal with San Miguel Corporation to be a consultant with the conglomerate’s basketball program.
InterAKTV is part of InterAksyon.com, the online news portal of TV5, which is chaired by Pangilinan.
“His dribble-drive offense, which he has been doing with Talk N Text, is more suited internationally compared to my style, which is more suited in the PBA,” said Uichico, who coached the Philippine team to a fourth-place finish in the 2002 Asian Games. A veteran international campaigner, Uichico also served as an assistant for Reyes in the national team in 2007, to Yeng Guiao in 2009, and Norman Black in 1994.
The dribble-drive offense is markedly different from Toroman’s system, but has been in use by Philippine teams at junior levels of Asian competition to some success. Eric Altamirano used a similar system to pilot the Philippine youth team to a fourth-place finish in the 2009 FIBA Asia Under-16 Championship and a fifth-place finish in the 2010 FIBA-Asia Under-18 Championship.
Olsen Racela, who took over for Altamirano at the helm of the national youth program, also adopted the dribble-drive offense to lead Energen Pilipinas to a fourth-place finish in the 2012 FIBA Asia Under-16 Championship. Racela’s brother Nash, a protege of Reyes at Talk ‘N Text, acted as his top assistant.
Uichico said that a top-three finish in next year’s FIBA Asia tournament is the main goal for SMART-Gilas.
“Making it to the top three means an improvement from the previous FIBA Asia tournament and it will give us an outright spot for the 2014 World Championship,” he said.
“But of course, at the back of our minds, we want to win the championship.”