MANILA, Philippines -- (2ND UPDATE) Yeng Guiao has stepped down as head coach of the Philippine national basketball team, just one day after Gilas Pilipinas returned from the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup without a single victory in five games.
In a letter to the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), Guiao said he took full responsibility for Gilas' performance in the World Cup, where the national team lost their games by an average margin of 29.4 points -- including a pair of brutal losses to Italy and Serbia in the group round.
"I am stepping down, as of today, as the head coach of the Gilas men’s basketball team, in order to give the SBP a free hand in building and developing a program towards achieving our objective of competing with the best of the best," Guiao said.
"I am truly grateful for the opportunity to serve our country through the sport we love most."
The SBP has accepted the resignation of Guiao "with a heavy heart."
"It is with a heavy heart that we accept coach Yeng’s resignation as the head coach Glas Pilipinas Men. The SBP thanks him for his contributions and wishes him well in all his future endeavors," SBP president Al Panlilio said in a statement.
Panlilio acknowledged that Guiao "had the unenviable task of picking up the pieces for Gilas Pilipinas Men."
Guiao had helmed the national team that was sent to the Asian Games in Jakarta last year, where they were joined by Filipino-American guard Jordan Clarkson. That team -- anchored by the core of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters -- managed a fifth-place finish and nearly upset China and South Korea despite having minimal preparation.
Guiao was appointed Gilas head coach after the Asian Games, taking over for Chot Reyes. He led the team to the 2019 World Cup, despite a rocky campaign in the qualifiers that included going winless on their home court late last year.
"Even if the odds were stacked against him from the start, he took on the challenge head on and gave it his best shot," Panlilio said.
"His selection to take over was unanimous and it spoke volumes about the respect that he has gained throughout his career from all members of the Philippine basketball community," he added.
Guiao said he feels "truly blessed to have coached the best that Philippine basketball has to offer and to have competed amongst the best in the world."
"I consider the past year, most especially our participation in the World Cup, as the highlight of my career," said Guiao, who profusely expressed his gratitude to the SBP, the management of NLEX and Rain or Shine, as well as to the PBA.
He said his lone regret was that he wanted Gilas "to have performed better on the world stage."
"The efforts and sacrifices of all those involved, overcoming the many trials and tribulations, putting ourselves on the world stage of basketball – I can only wish we could have performed better these past two weeks, but the odds were stacked against us," he also said.
"Nonetheless, I take full responsibility," added Guiao, who repeatedly said during the World Cup that he will answer for everything and shielded the Gilas players from criticism.
The coach again apologized for the Philippine team's disappointing campaign in the World Cup, and stressed that the Gilas players "gave their best against talented, bigger, stronger, and better prepared athletes from the best teams in the world."
Following his resignation, Guiao said that his focus is now back on the NLEX Road Warriors, as he hopes to lead them to their first championship in the PBA.
Here is Guiao's statement, in full and unedited:
"As regards the past performance of the GILAS PILIPINAS MEN’S BASKETBALL TEAM in the recent World Cup, I am as disappointed as the rest of the country.
"I truly and fully appreciate the efforts and sacrifices of all the players; not just those of the recent FIBA World Cup Team, but of all those who have contributed to the program since my appointment as head coach for the 2018 Asian Games.
"I would also like to extend my personal thanks to the coaching staff, trainers, utilities and the management of the Gilas Team for their hard work, support, and cooperation.
"I’d like to express special gratitude to the PBA Team Owners and Board of Governors led by Chairman Ricky Vargas and Commissioner Willy Marcial; special mention to Boss Ramon Ang and my friend, Al Chua, as well, for the moral and material support they have extended to our team.
"My deep gratitude to Boss Raymund Yu and Boss Terry Que, for keeping their trust in me and endorsing me to coach the Rain or Shine core team in the 2018 Asian Games, which led to my appointment as Head Coach of the Gilas Team.
"Special thanks to Boss Rod Franco, NLEX Management, and the whole team for their understanding and support as I served my country in my capacity as Head Coach of the Gilas Team, thereby diluting my focus and attention from my duties to them. I am now back home in NLEX to fully focus on winning our first championship.
"Above all, I am most thankful to SBP Chairman Manny V. Pangilinan and SBP President Al Panlilio for the opportunity to have been of service to the country in the sport I love most.
"To all fans and friends who wished us well, supported us, and offered their prayers, I am grateful from the bottom of my heart.
"I am truly blessed to have coached the best that Philippine Basketball has to offer and to have competed amongst the best in the world. I consider the past year, most especially our participation in the World Cup, as the highlight of my career.
"Even if I had known from the beginning that this would be the end result of my decision to accept this coaching job, I would have had no second thoughts in making the same decision. I have no regrets in having taken the path I have taken in the past year; the only regret is that I would have wanted the team to have performed better on the world stage.
"I take pride in having taken over the Gilas Program at a point of crisis, where the team was decimated by the suspension of players and coaches after the Australian incident. From there we put together the team and the program with the support of the SBP, the PBA, and our basketball public, to take 5th place in the Asian Games – our best finish in the last 16 years – with an opportunity to make the finals, except for a loss to China which was decided with one possession. With the help of Filipino-American NBA player Jordan Clarkson, we almost achieved the improbable.
"After some struggles and adjustments through three qualifying windows for the FIBA World Cup, we were able to qualify for our second straight World Cup appearance. This was my only promise to our basketball officials and public – that if we were not able to achieve this, I would gladly step down as head coach of the GILAS Program.
"After all the hard work and struggles, the stars aligned for us and the Philippines made it to the top 32 elite teams in the world – and this, only a year after the team was almost decimated by suspensions.
"It is in this context that I view my year of leading this program in a positive light.
"The efforts and sacrifices of all those involved, overcoming the many trials and tribulations, putting ourselves on the world stage of basketball – I can only wish we could have performed better these past two weeks, but the odds were stacked against us.
"Nonetheless, I take full responsibility.
"I knew what conditions existed, what the limitations were, and still, I accepted the challenge. I hold myself responsible for the consequences.
"I am sorry we could not deliver a better performance. Our players gave their best against talented, bigger, stronger, and better prepared athletes from the best teams in the world. I truly appreciate their efforts and sacrifices – and that of their families. Our times together will never be erased from my memory.
"In the light of all these developments, I am stepping down, as of today, as the Head Coach of the Gilas Men’s Basketball Team, in order to give the SBP a free hand in building and developing a program towards achieving our objective of competing with the best of the best.
"I am truly grateful for the opportunity to serve our country through the sport we love most.
"Para sa bayan."