Amid clamor for Baldwin's return, Chot Reyes says will fulfill SBP mandate

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 26 2022 05:06 PM

Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes. PSC/POC Pool photo. 
Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes. PSC/POC Pool photo. 

MANILA, Philippines -- Chot Reyes is well aware that he is bearing the brunt of the criticism and backlash after Gilas Pilipinas failed to win the gold medal in the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Reyes last posted a tweet on May 16, when he said that he was "logging off for a while" as the men's basketball team began their campaign. Ten days later, he remained "plugged off," even as fans online are calling for his ouster from his position as head coach of Gilas.

"I know there's such great backlash out there, thankfully I'm plugged off, so I have no idea," Reyes said on "Play It Right TV" on Wednesday night, where he made his first public appearance since Gilas shockingly lost to Indonesia in the gold medal game of the SEA Games.

The Filipinos won their first five games in Hanoi but fell at the last hurdle, absorbing an 85-81 defeat that ended a run of 13 consecutive gold medals in the biennial event. Indonesia, meanwhile, won SEA Games gold for the first time.

Reyes acknowledged that the backlash is understandable, given the circumstances. The Philippines has dominated the Southeast Asian region since 1991, winning in runaway fashion in most years. In the 2019 SEA Games in Manila, a Gilas squad composed of PBA players cruised to the gold medal, winning games by an average of 44.6 points.

The defeat to Indonesia -- a team that Gilas routed, 97-70, in 2019 -- thus came as a surprise to Filipino fans. Gilas struggled all throughout the game to stop Indonesia's three-point shooting, while also going cold from the perimeter themselves. Despite the presence of six-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo, they couldn't keep Indonesia's naturalized player, Marques Bolden, from converting a crucial putback in the clutch.

Inevitably, the result led to fans calling for Reyes to step down, and for the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) to bring back former Gilas coach Tab Baldwin. The Ateneo de Manila University coach's record was highlighted: Baldwin had steered a team of amateurs and collegiate standouts to wins against continental powerhouse South Korea in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers just last year. 

Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin. UAAP Media.
Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin. UAAP Media.

"Like I said, I did not apply for this job, I did not volunteer for this job. It was given to me because Tab had resigned before me," Reyes said when asked for his reaction to the online clamor for Baldwin's return.

"I know that there is that clamor to bring him back, I'm a big believer in Tab. Remember, I was the one who brought Tab to the country," he pointed out. "So I know his capability and the kind of coach he is."

Baldwin was Gilas' program director but the SBP said he stepped down in late February in order to focus on his duties as head coach of the Blue Eagles in the UAAP. Reyes was appointed as Gilas coach in his stead. 

"Things did not pan out as planned," Reyes said of Baldwin's stint as Gilas coach. 

"I understand there's that clamor, but at this moment, I serve at the pleasure of the SBP leadership," he added. "I've been given this job, I've been given this mandate, and I'm going to do my best to fulfill that mandate."

The SBP had apologized for Gilas' failure to retain their gold medal in the SEA Games just on Wednesday, saying they learned "valuable lessons" from the stint. There was no mention of Reyes' status or the federation's plans for upcoming FIBA tournaments in July.

Reyes revealed, however, that they intend to call up collegiate players for the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers and the FIBA Asia Cup 2022 in the coming months.