There are many definitions of a good coach, says Chot Reyes who knows a thing or two about being one. The former national team head coach has had a stellar career in molding and guiding some of the best players in Philippine basketball to be their absolute best, famously winning eight championships in his stint at the PBA, and leading Gilas Pilipinas towards clinching a historic silver win at the FIBA Asia Championship six years ago.
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There are many good coaches out there but what really separates the men from the boys? “A good coach is able to get the best out of his people,” says Chot. He breaks it down thus: “It's always a combination of technical skills, psychological knowhow, and a lot of patience. First of all, you have to know your stuff. You have to know your x's and o's. But what separates the best coaches from the merely good is what I call the intangibles: the ability to motivate, the ability to draw out the best, the ability to make the players realize a potential that even they don't know they possess.”
By now, people know that Chot’s son Josh is making a name for himself in the field where his dad had become a legend. Josh, former Batang Gilas coach is now assistant coach of TNT Katropa. Could the father have consciously mentored his own son to follow in his footsteps? “I think he was born with a basketball in his hand, and his first real playground was the basketball court,” says Chot. “So I didn't have to consciously mentor him but I think it was the environment in which he grew up in that was a very big influence on him.” But when Chot noticed that Josh’s choice of vocation was slowly leaning towards coaching, the father just did what was natural for him to do. “I guess consciously I made sure that he saw what it takes to be a real coach. You know, the late nights working, scouting, watching game after game after game, travelling, watching videos, buying books, going to observe great coaches even at my own expense.”
“I don't have any childhood memory without basketball being involved in it in some way,” offers Josh, who also confirms that, yes, the basketball was his first toy, followed by a Voltron robot set. Like any kid, he dreamed of playing the game first but he was not tall enough. Coaching was the next best option—just so he can continue to be part of a world that sparked his fascination even as a child. Josh says his dad was the kind of mentor who did not tell you what to do. “I think he couldn’t care less if I did not get into basketball,” says Josh. “But I think as a young individual that drives you more to that world. No one’s really pushing for it so it becomes subconsciously your own decision to choose that path.” His first assignment was to be the video coordinator of the Talk n Text team where Chot was head coach. “I was thrown into the fire! He didn’t tell me what to do,” recalls Josh now. “I was going to face that fire. It was test after test.”
“We had to find out if he was cut out for it, if he could do it,” recalls Chot of that time. The team did not have enough budget to get a real video coordinator, and Josh was around and wouldn’t mind the paltry stipend. It was an important role as Chot’s style of coaching relied heavily on showing his team their performance on video. Soon after, the team was able to hire a real video coordinator—but Josh had already established a presence in the coaches meetings. He was then asked to do a scouting report—which he’s never done before. “And nobody told him how, and then later on it was already the other assistant coaches who made the recommendation: We should involve josh a lot more.”
From there, as the son’s responsibilities grew, so did his influence.
He developed his skills working closely with the players. Because of his young age, he got along very well with the players—a most essential factor in being a good coach. “You know when we teach young coaches,” says Chot, “we remind them always that the most important thing you have is that connection with the players. Remove that connection, no coaching is is possible. (Josh) was able to build that connection. So, we may have opened the doors for him but he made his own way.”
These days, Josh continues to make a name for himself in basketball, and while Chot is no longer active inside the court, he remains passionate in creating good leaders — essentially coaches, too — as president of coachcom.inc which facilitates leadership and mentorship programs. The father-and-son duo talk about their careers and the value of mentors in this weekend’s installment of Masters & Mentors, ANCX.ph’s series on the importance of role models and passing on one’s knowledge.
Photographs by Chris Clemente