MANILA -- Gilas Pilipinas' sorry performances in recent FIBA competitions should not be pinned on national team coach Chot Reyes, according to Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP).
For SBP president Al Panlilio, the problem can be traced to the team's former coach, Ateneo de Manila University mentor Tab Baldwin.
"Honestly, the predicament that we are in today is because of Tab," Panlilio said in an interview on SEAG Network.
Panlilio said Reyes had so little to work with because the team was left with only a handful of players.
"He started losing players, (Baldwin) didn’t want to coach the February window. As a federation we had to make decisions on how to move forward," he said.
At the time, most of the Gilas players headed separate directions. Some of them committed full-time to the PBA like Isaac Go, Matt and Mike Nieto, Rey Suerte, and Allyn Bulanadi. Jordan Heading played for T1 League’s Taichung, while the collegiate players were in the UAAP bubble.
Panlilio said Baldwin had talked to SBP chairman emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan to beg off from coaching the national team last February.
Pangilinan relayed the matter through former POC president and current PBA chair Ricky Vargas.
"That was quite alarming for me. I felt like he was supposed to be the program director and coach of the team. Bigla na lang one window sabi hindi na siya pwedeng mag-coach. Mahirap naman ata 'yung ganun," said Panlilio.
The SBP official said Reyes was forced to accept the coaching reins despite the problems with the Gilas roster.
"In fairness to Chot -- and I know there are a lot of bashers of Chot -- he knew he had no team. He took the job because he was asked to do so. Pilipino siya e," said Panlilio.
"He knew he will face a massive backlash if he didn't perform well."
In its most recent outing, the nationals bowed to Japan, 102-81, and failed to advance to the quarterfinals of the FIBA Asia Cup for the first time since 2007.
Prior to that, Gilas yielded to Indonesia and failed to defend its gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games, which the Philippines has dominated for decades.
The SBP is hard-pressed to assemble the best national team as the Philippines will be one of the host countries of the 2023 FIBA World Cup.