Looking back at how Gilas Pilipinas was able to make it to the 2019 FIBA World Cup, Yeng Guiao said he felt fate played a hand in his triumphant return as national-team head coach.
He remembered the time he was appointed to take the coaching reins, it was a troubled period for the national team.
"It's destiny. I had no idea, no plan. It all started with the incident with Australia. At that time, I was just an outsider looking in. I never knew I would be in this position when it happened," he said in an interview posted on FIBA.com.
Guiao was referring to the infamous brawl between the Philippine national team and the visiting Australian squad that took place during a FIBA World Cup qualifier in the Philippine Arena.
The mercurial coach acknowledged he did not expect to be called up especially after the national team he coached a decade ago tanked in the 2009 FIBA Asia Cup.
"I couldn’t say no," he said.
"It’s an honor to serve the national team once again. I wanted to give it a try. The goal was to make the World Cup. If we had failed, I planned to step down right away."
But they did make it to the World Cup.
The nationals swept Qatar and Kazakhstan in the final window of the qualifiers to book a trip to basketball’s biggest contest.
Guiao is fired up more than ever. He said stepping onto the biggest stage is bigger than any championship in the Philippines.
"We’re not just talking about any team; this is for the whole country," he said.
"It feels like a championship but probably more than a championship because it brings you to another level. And it’s not just about bringing joy to the fans of one PBA team or the other. You bring joy to the whole nation."
The Philippines will begin their World Cup campaign on August 31 in Foshan, China.
The nationals will take on Italy, Serbia and Angola in succession.
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