MANILA, Philippines -- Aside from serving as its program director, Tab Baldwin will also coach the Philippine men's national basketball team for the upcoming FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers and the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
According to the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), the decision to install Baldwin as head coach was to ensure that they continue to progress in the right direction, particularly in the upcoming FIBA competitions.
"Basically, the reason is, it is his program," said Ryan Gregorio, special assistant to SBP president Al Panlilio, during a press con in Clark, Pampanga on Sunday.
"So being (that) it his program, he wants to make sure that all the adjustments will be done in accordance to his preferences, and he understands international play better than anyone of us, or better than anyone of his coaching staff," he pointed out.
"That is precisely his reason why he is so excited to take on the function."
Baldwin previously coached Gilas Pilipinas in 2015 and 2016, leading them to a silver medal in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championships in China despite a depleted roster that lacked some of the usual mainstays of the team at the time.
He also called the shots for the team that competed in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in 2016 in Manila, where Gilas dropped both games to New Zealand and France.
Now also the head coach of Ateneo de Manila University, Baldwin is handling a much different Gilas team from the one that he coached in 2015 and 2016. There are no PBA players in the squad, at least for the two upcoming FIBA events. Instead, the SBP has called up a team composed solely of cadet players.
Anchoring the team are the players that the PBA selected in the recent Rookie Drafts -- Isaac Go, Mike Nieto, Jaydee Tungcab, Jordan Heading, Tzaddy Rangel, and Will Navarro. A bulk of the team will be collegiate stars: Dwight Ramos, Javi Gomez de Liano, Justine Baltazar, SJ Belangel, and Geo Chiu.
Some members of the team have yet to play at the collegiate level, namely: Lebron Lopez, Carl Tamayo, and RJ Abarrientos. Baldwin will also have naturalized center Ange Kouame, while Kai Sotto is with the team in Clark although he will still be evaluated for match fitness.
"Coach Tab Baldwin is tasked to run the program all the way to 2023," Gregorio stressed. "He is just so encouraged and excited to hand-hold these young players all the way to that direction. And he's very happy with the coaching staff, the tremendous support that he's getting from his coaching staff."
With Baldwin at the helm, he can make sure that the players follow strictly the system that they put in place and learned throughout a long training camp at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna.
"It is his program, and he wants to make sure that the program he has set in play, from again the offensive complexities, the defensive schemes, and the chemistry that he is trying to espouse, will all bring us the kind of good basketball play, and give us an opportunity to win," said Gregorio.
Baldwin will evaluate his own performance and that of the team after the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers and the FIBA OQT, Gregorio also said.
Gilas Pilipinas plays three games in Clark: against South Korea on June 16 and 20, and against Indonesia on June 18. Currently, the team leads Group A with a 3-0 record after wins over Indonesia in February 2020, and two victories against Thailand in November.
After the Clark bubble, they are set to fly to Belgrade, Serbia for the FIBA OQT.