Who’s a better fit to coach Gilas — a foreign or a local coach? Tab Baldwin weighs in

Dominic Menor, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 07 2020 05:43 AM | Updated as of May 07 2020 06:06 AM

Who’s a better fit to coach Gilas — a foreign or a local coach? Tab Baldwin weighs in 1
Gilas Pilipinas program director Tab Baldwin says that if a sports federation’s intention is to contend on the world stage, “then by definition you cannot be insular in your thinking.” Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/file

The debate about whether the Philippines should tap a foreigner to coach the country’s men’s basketball team doesn’t make Tab Baldwin uncomfortable. 

The Gilas Pilipinas program director says there’s no right or wrong answer, and that it depends on the national program’s objectives. 

“If you want to be competitive, then you do cast your net as broad as you can,” says Baldwin, who adds that he welcomes such a discussion.

“And if a Filipino coach stands up to all of that competition from all over the world — of who would be available, of who would be the best coach, of who would be the best fit — then he should get the job, no question about it. 

“But if there are better options out there, then it’s simply logical that if you’re not nationalistic in your goals you’re going to get the best coach that you can.”

Earlier this week, former Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes said it’s better for a Filipino coach to call the shots for the national team, because Reyes believes a homegrown coach can bring the “puso” out of players better than a foreigner.

“We don’t need a foreign coach. We’ve tried it before,” Reyes said during an online coaching seminar on Sunday. 

“I love Tab. I love Mark Dickel. I was the one who brought Tab here. I’ve had great relationships with Rajko Toroman. And you know how close I am to Tim (Cone) and you know how close I am with coach Norman (Black). I have huge, huge respect for foreign coaches. But in the end, where did it take us, di ba? Where have we gone with the foreign coaches?”

Reyes, who met Baldwin in 2013 and practically introduced him to Philippine basketball, added: “I think the Filipino coach is the one who is going to be able to capture the heart of the Filipino. Maski gaano kagaling ’yung foreign coach, wala siyang pusong Pinoy. Hindi naman nila maiintindihan talaga ’yun, kasi tayo lang ang makakaintindi talaga nu’n, ’yun talagang magpapakamatay tayo.” 

(Even if we bring in a great foreign coach, he doesn’t have the heart of a Filipino. They will never understand that feeling of wanting to give our lives up on the floor.)

Who’s a better fit to coach Gilas — a foreign or a local coach? Tab Baldwin weighs in 2
Former Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes, who guided the Philippines to a historic win over South Korea in semifinals of the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship en route to qualifying for the 2014 FIBA World Cup, believes a foreign coach will never understand the concept of having a “pusong Pinoy.” George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/file

Baldwin, who became part of Reyes’ coaching staff in the 2014 FIBA World Championship, says this hiring dilemma is a hot-button issue not just in the Philippines but in a lot of national programs around the world, too.

He says that if a sports federation’s intention is to contend on the world stage, “then by definition you cannot be insular in your thinking.”

“You literally should be out there saying, ‘Who is the best fit that we can get for this team?’ ” he says.

According to Baldwin, players won’t always gravitate toward coaches based on their birthplace alone, as Reyes said.

“People that believe in the nationalistic viewpoint would say, ‘We’re going to be more competitive with a Filipino coach, because he identifies and relates to the players better than a foreign coach,’ ” says Baldwin, who has guided the Ateneo Blue Eagles to four straight UAAP men’s finals and three championships in a row.

“I think that that’s not true. I think great players recognize good coaching and that’s what they want.” 

Gilas hasn’t hired a full-time head coach yet; Mark Dickel is calling the shots on an interim basis. 

In his lone game so far at the helm, Dickel led Gilas to a victory over Indonesia at the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers in February.

Prior to that, Yeng Guiao coached the Philippines in the 2019 FIBA World Cup, jumping in midway through the qualifying phase after Reyes “stepped aside” in 2018. 

After Guiao resigned, Tim Cone took over the team that swept the 2019 Southeast Asian Games en route to the gold but wasn’t committed to Gilas beyond that tournament.

Baldwin adds that foreign coaches may hold a different passport, but when they serve a national team their allegiance can never be questioned.

“When I took on the responsibility of coaching another country, I bled the colors of that country,” says Baldwin, who has coached five national teams, including New Zealand, which he led to a semifinal finish in the 2002 FIBA World Championship, the Tall Blacks’ best performance in world competition.

“That’s just the way it is. You just go out there and do everything you can to succeed in that environment with those players for that country.”

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