Tab Baldwin misses ‘special’ Gilas players

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 27 2022 11:53 AM

Tab Baldwin gives instructions to the Gilas players during their game against South Korea in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers. FIBA.basketball 
Tab Baldwin gives instructions to the Gilas players during their game against South Korea in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers. FIBA.basketball 

MANILA, Philippines -- He may not be fully ready to discuss the circumstances leading to his departure from the national team program, but one thing's certain: Tab Baldwin misses the Gilas Pilipinas players.

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas announced on January 31 that Baldwin had stepped down from his post as Gilas Pilipinas coach in order to focus on his duties with the Ateneo Blue Eagles.

Chot Reyes was appointed as his replacement.

In his first public comments regarding Gilas Pilipinas since leaving the job, Baldwin told former PBA Commissioner Noli Eala that he misses the players he worked with in the national team -- some of whom are still playing in the UAAP.

"I miss those players. There's always dreams and aspirations that you have as a coach, and even though I'm an old guy and I've been around for a long time, I had dreams and aspirations related to Gilas," Baldwin said on "Power and Play."

"But what I really miss are the Carl Tamayos, the Justine Baltazars, the RJ Abarrientoses, Allyn Bulanadi, Rey Suerte, I can go on," he added.

Tamayo is now a rookie with the University of the Philippines, while Baltazar is the captain of the De La Salle Green Archers in his final playing year. Abarrientos made his long-awaited debut for Far Eastern University on Saturday.

Both Bulanadi and Suerte are now in the PBA, having opted to join their mother clubs upon the expiration of their contracts with the SBP.

"[Those are] special guys that I spent a lot of time with. We did some special things and you know, I miss them. I miss them," said Baldwin.

Baldwin had coached Gilas in the FIBA Asian Cup qualifiers last year, where his young squad -- one without any pro experience -- stunned rivals South Korea in two games while also routing Indonesia. The youthful Gilas also gave a good account of themselves in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, even giving powerhouse Serbia a run for their money.

But according to the SBP, the delays brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic caused an overlap in the schedules of the UAAP and the build-up to the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

Thus, Baldwin is now focused on the Blue Eagles, who are seeking a fourth consecutive UAAP championship. They opened their title defense on Saturday with a 90-81 triumph over Tamayo's Fighting Maroons.

Baldwin told Eala that he hopes his departure from Gilas will benefit the Ateneo men's basketball program.

"Certainly, even if I stayed with Gilas, I would have divided loyalties, divided attention," Baldwin acknowledged. "For certain periods, I still would have focused on Ateneo because that's actually my job."

"But putting my entire focus on Ateneo, I would hope that they would have benefitted from that. If they haven't, I might have a hard time holding on to this job as well," he added.

Gilas went 1-1 in the February window of the Asian qualifiers, routing India 88-64 before absorbing an 88-63 defeat to New Zealand. The national team will play again in May in the 31st Southeast Asian Games, where they will look to defend their gold medal.


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