MANILA, Philippines—Head coach Yeng Guiao suggested a re-evaluation of the national men's basketball program after Gilas Pilipinas went 0-2 in the recently concluded fifth qualifying window for the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
Close losses to Kazakhstan and Iran at Mall of Asia dealt a blow to the Philippines' hopes of playing in the FIBA Basketball World Cup next year, and put the team in a must-win situation heading into the final window on February 2019.
Guiao was frank in his assessment of his side's 78-70 setback to Iran on Monday night, acknowledging that a lack of maturity and cohesion, as well as its inability to adjust to the FIBA officiating doomed the team.
"Towards the end game, I felt it's a lack of maturity for the team. It's not as cohesive as we want it to be at this point," he said.
"We gave up too many free throws again, and that's the problem, I guess," he added. "We're not really accustomed to the officiating. We don't know how certain calls are made in the international game."
"But that's something we should be responsible for. We should be able to adapt to that."
The twin defeats dropped Gilas Pilipinas to 5-5 in Group F, behind Australia (9-1), Iran (7-3) and Japan (6-4). They go on the road in February, playing Qatar and Kazakhstan on their home turf.
"We are looking forward to February," said Guiao. "But I guess, after this game, we'll have to make some assessments, some evaluations, and some decisions."
"We're in that stage now where there's really a crossroad looking into the future, and making that assessment," he added. "I think I'll have to discuss this with our basketball leaders."
The nature of the Filipinos' losses to Kazakhstan and Iran led Guiao to propose that changes be made to the way the national team is being put together. He noted that a lack of poise under pressure was due in part to a lack of chemistry. "Our maturity did not show, and that's a function of time together, and seeing and experiencing adversity as a group, which we did not have enough of," he explained.
This is nothing new to the Philippine national basketball team; indeed, a short preparation time seems to be a hallmark of Gilas Pilipinas. But Guiao said he feels this is something that needs to be changed.
"Whether I'm here or not, I guess one thing we should take a look at is keeping the team together longer, for international competition," he said.
"I was actually suggesting na let's decide, once and for all, who the national team players are, not keep naming a pool."
Thus, instead of repeatedly naming a pool of 20 or more players, Guiao suggested keeping a 15-man team. "Let's just support those 15 (players) with time together, with international experience and competition, with training and exposure as a team," he said.
This will give the team a chance to develop chemistry and master the national team's system, something that becomes difficult when the players have to be repeatedly pulled out of the program to return to their mother clubs in the PBA.
"Ang problema ko dito kasi, a lot of these players have been successful in different systems, so it's really very difficult to unlearn those systems for a few weeks, and then go back to the system again, and then unlearn them again when you're with the national team," Guiao pointed out.
"So 'yun talaga ang nagiging problema na palagay ko, kailangan mahanapan ng solution. Aside from the adjustment to the international game, the PBA is totally different from the way it's played internationally."
Guiao said the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas was receptive to the idea. "Mukha namang agree sila," he said.
It's not just the team that is at a crossroads; Guiao himself said he will have to make some personal assessments as well.
"When I took on this job, I stated very clearly that my objective and our goal is to bring this team to the World Cup," he said. "So, I think we fall to fourth place right now. We have to make assessments on the next two games, and the situations of the other teams."
"I also stated that if I cannot bring this team to the World Cup, I'll walk away," he added. "So tingnan natin, ano."
Make no mistake, however: Guiao has not at all lost hope in the Philippine team, and he remains upbeat that they can salvage the situation.
"I still feel that this is a good team. I still feel that this is a strong team," he said emphatically.
"The chances are slimmer (of) going to the World Cup, but I still feel we can do it," he added. "Alam kong kaya pa rin natin."
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.