#GilasIssues: Part 2 – It’s Not The Coach

Off with his head.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much backlash result from such an unfortunate confluence of events involving Gilas Pilipinas.

After steering Gilas to a disappointing finish in the 2014 Asian Games, seemingly shaming naturalized player Marcus Douthit in public after losing to Qatar, and engineering an unprecedented own-goal attempt against the Kazakhs, coach Chot Reyes came under fire from all angles.

Many wanted him out of Gilas as soon as possible.

Some considered him no more than a disgrace to Philippine basketball.

Everybody wanted, at the very least, an explanation.

Practically nobody was left in his corner, except those who were actually, literally, with him in Incheon, South Korea.

Coach Chot had a forgettable stint in the 2014 Asian Games.
(image from Jumpball.co.kr)

"It's unfair criticism. Obviously, the result here in Korea wasn't what we had planned. We were hopeful to compete for the gold medal. But again a lot of unexpected things happened, from Andray's eligibility issue, to having Marcus back after pretty much two to three months layoff, and on top of that the injuries, but then again, it's not an excuse. The guys continued to fight, gave everything they had but for this particular tournament, it wasn't enough," said Jimmy Alapag in one interview.

Even Marcus Douthit himself said that there were no hard feelings, while team patron and SBP head Manny V. Pangilinan continued to express support for the embattled Gilas coach.

At the end of the day, however, can we say, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that coach Chot was, indeed, the one mostly to blame for Gilas’s spiraling into its worst Asiad finish ever?

Players Win, Coaches Lose

One truth in team sports is that when teams win games and championships, it’s often the players in the limelight.

Another truth is that, though unfortunate, when teams lose, it’s often the coaches thrown under the bus.

Players bask in the glory. Coaches take the responsibility.

And that, presumably, is the reason a lot of people took it badly when they heard and read about coach Chot calling Douthit out after Gilas’s defeat to Qatar.

It’s not uncommon, of course, for coaches to publicly express their disappointment at their players’ inability to step up or lead their respective clubs to victory (read: Pop and Phil). In coach Chot’s case, however, it came after an unexpected loss, after a slew of collapses in the 2014 FIBA World Cup, after Gilas’s chances took a hit when Andray Blatche was ruled ineligible for the Asiad, after playing their third game in three nights, and under the weight of bloated expectations. In short, amidst all the setbacks and near-misses, it wasn’t the kind of thing that Gilas’s fans were hoping to hear.

But (and this is a BIG but that the Gilas haters might not even consider) does that make coach Chot wrong? Is it enough for the SBP to say, “Off with his head?” Is it a big enough wrench in the Gilas machinery -- big enough to destroy all its gains?

I say NO.

Will replacing coach Chot help? Will picking someone who’ll coach in the pros or in college and then moonlight as the Gilas coach work? How about a foreigner who has seen many international tournaments and who practically lives and breathes international hoops?

Before we even attempt to answer those questions, how about a bit of history first?

Coach Chot in his first tour of duty as NT head coach in the
2007 FIBA Asia Championships in Tokushima, Japan.
(image from Team Pilipinas)

Coaching Gilas (a li’l bit of history)

In 1990, Sonny Jaworski coached the first all-pro Philippine National Team (NT) to the Beijing Asian Games. They lost to China, 125-60, in their fourth game before booking a rematch after a narrow win over Japan, 94-90, in the semifinals. China repeated over the Philippines, 90-74, to win gold. This was the Pinoys’ best finish since winning gold in 1962 (and it sill is to this day). Jaworski coached Añejo Rhum prior to his NT duties. The team won five of its seven assignments.

In 1994, Norman Black coached San Miguel Beer in the PBA and the Philippine NT to the Hiroshima Asian Games. He had a core of his SMB players form the team along with on-loan players from other PBA clubs and the top amateurs. They finished fourth behind Japan, South Korea, and China. They had an overall record of 3 wins against 3 losses.

Is coach Norman Black open to returning to coaching in the international scene?
(image by Rogelio Amat)

In 1998, Tim Cone coached Alaska in the PBA and the Philippine Centennial Team in the 1998 Jones Cup and Bangkok Asian Games. The Pinoys swept the Jones Cup to emerge champions, but had a much tougher time in the Asiad. They won by just 1 point over Kazakhstan in the preliminaries and were blasted by the Koreans, 103-83, in the quarterfinals. China kept them at bay in the semis, 92-83, before the Pinoys had to scrape past Kazakhstan again to annex the bronze. The Centennial Team won five of its seven games.

In the 2002 Asian Games, Jong Uichico, who was coaching San Miguel in the PBA, took over after incumbent NT coach Ron Jacobs suffered a stroke. Uichico helmed the Philippines to impressive preliminary wins over UAE, North Korea, Japan, and Taiwan before they got plastered by the Chinese, 92-51. The Filipinos looked well on the way to the Finals after being in-control most of way opposite South Korea in semifinals, but a few missed free throws and a Lee Sang-Min buzzer-beater pulled the rug from under the Pinoys. Deflated, Uchico’s wards succumbed to Kazakhstan in the bronze medal game. Their record was 4-3. The Philippine NT would then miss the 2006 joust in Doha, Qatar because of the FIBA suspension.

Jong Uichico is back as a PBA head coach, which means he'll
have less time to be with the national team.
(image from PinoyWeb)

In the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, the Gilas program was already in full swing with bemedalled international coach Rajko Toroman calling the shots. Toroman had mostly amateurs at his disposal here, reinforced only by a few pros like Kelly Williams and Asi Taulava. The Filipinos were never dominant and got eliminated in the quarterfinals by the Koreans, 74-66. Gilas went on to finish in sixth place, its worst at that time. The team’s record was 5-4.

Rajko Toroman in his vintage fiery form with Gilas.
(image from the Smart Gilas Facebook page)

And then there’s this year’s Asiad in Incheon, South Korea, which came on the heels of the country’s return to the world basketball stage in #Spain2014. The team expected to play with BOTH Andray Blatche and Jayson Castro in the Asiad, but the former was disallowed by the Olympic Council of Asia and the latter was saddled with injuries. Practically at the last minute, Gilas had no recourse but to reactivate the 34-year-old Douthit and ask 36-year-old icon Jimmy Alapag to suit up one final time. Gilas started with a win over India and then went on a three-game losing streak (Iran, Qatar, and South Korea) before the infamous win against Kazakhstan. Gilas then lost to China in the classification round before ending with a W over Mongolia to finish a record low seventh. The team’s overall record was 3-4.

So what do these all say?

Despite the revolving door of coaches, many of whom split time with between their PBA duties and NT responsibilities, and players (we have next to no continuity if you scrutinize the rosters), we have never really achieved our desired level of dominance in the Asian Games. Our best finish since PBA players donned the national colors was silver 24 years ago, but we also had our worst shellacking (65 points!!!) in that same tourney. Since then, we’ve won just one bronze and finished outside the top four twice.

This tells me that the problem with our NT is not personnel. It’s systemic. When, despite changes in who’s coaching and who’s playing, our performances continue to break our hearts, perhaps the change should no longer be about what kind of plays we’re running, who’s doing our scouting, who’s taking the last shot, who missed that crucial free throw, or who should be thrown to the fire after the final buzzer.

A BIG Change

Perhaps the change should be bigger than the team, its coaches, and its players.

Perhaps the change should be in Philippine basketball itself.

Perhaps we should drastically change the way we do basketball in our country.

In the next few parts, I’ll break down certain areas that affect “the way we do basketball” in a big way – foreign influence, local talent, our LOOONG calendar, and continuity.


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14 Comment

Totally agree dito. Masyado nanapapagod players natin kasi nonstop laro tapos fiba pa.


BUT, then again looking at history, ALL coaches resigned or were replaced after not winning the gold. Chot wants to stay...or as he put it "....leaving it to management". He should go. He's had his chance twice already (2005-2008 and 2011 to present?).


And maybe that's the problem -- coaches ending their term after one or two tournaments only. AFAIK, only Rajko and Chot have stayed with the national program as head coaches for more than one year (Rajko from 2009 to 2011 and Chot from 2012 to 2014). In that span, we've done things we've never done before or in a looong time (3rd in the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup, returning to the FIBA World Cup, winning the 2012 Jones Cup, and winning silver in the 2013 FIBA Asia). (Yes, we've also done not so nice things like the own goal and publicly criticizing Douthit) The point is, as you'll see in the next few parts, if we want sustained success, we cannot revert to the old mindset of one coach leaving or being replaced after a single or a couple of setbacks. We need something more long-term in approach. If the SBP deems coach Chot is no longer fit, then so be it, but the next coach (if ever) should be on boars for the long haul and not just for a year or a couple of tournaments.


Perfect! Long-term....REWIND to when Chot started his SECOND chance in 2011. The measure....FIBA ASIA GOLD (emotional "win" instead, failed to win the GOLD). Next test....FIBA WORLDS. Chot got everything he asked for. Chot got everything money could buy. More than adequate training abroad (which he instead together with PR media used as an excuse "they've been away from their families for too long", "they have been at it for months". A proper coach would not have burnt-out his team. He would know how to pace and peak at the right time. He even had the NBA player he asked for. He too got his wishes for an expert coach for Int'l Basketball (Tab Baldwin) PLUS an expert coach in African Basketball! Goal was two wins...he wins one. Fail.

The Asian games test. Complete failure. No Blatche nor Douthit can not be used as excuses. Coaches do not use excuses. Chot did. Lots of times.

The two tests Chot was to be measured by...Two Golds (FIBA ASIA and ASIADS) and Two wins at FIBA Worlds. Zero. NO SUCCESS. Silver was good but short of the measure.

Chot has been there for the long haul, precisely.

I agree hire a national coach for the long haul. FIBA ASIA GOLD, ASIADS GOLD, Two wins in FIBA World's. Throw-in the Olympics as a bonus.

Chot has had his chances. His performance fell short. Time for the next National coach.


Agree and disagree.

I agree that Gilas fell short of certain expectations, especially in the Asian Games, but I disagree with the reasoning that all the setbacks should be pinned exclusively on coach Chot. It’s a team sport, after all. Teams win. Teams lose.

If we follow the logic that coach Chot should be replaced because his team was not able to “meet goals,” then I propose that every single member of the Gilas program that played in the 2013 FIBA Asia, 2014 World Cup, and 2014 Asiad should be “fired” as well.

Maybe we can blame coach Chot for spotty subbing or, in hindsight, “wrong” plays being called, but can we blame him for missed free throws, missed defensive assignments, or endgame turnovers? How about bad calls by the refs? How about breaks of the game? That would be a stretch.

I also disagree with several other things. Winning gold was never the goal in the 2013 FIBA Asia. Making the World Cup was the goal, and it was met. Beating Iran in the Finals was the dream (there is a difference, mind you), and, sadly, it just didn’t happen. In the 2014 World Cup, winning one game was the realistic expectation. The team did that. Winning two was the goal and the dream. Did not happen. In the Asian Games, well, it was, truly, an unqualified failure to meet expectations, goals, and dreams. But can we really characterize coach Chot’s tenure as having “no success?” Definitely not. Remember winning the 2012 Jones Cup — a feat that no RP coach has been able to do in 16 years? Remember finishing in the top three of the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup with a motley crew that began training in ernest only a few days after the PBA season, which is the longest pro basketball season in the world, ended? Before coach Chot took over, our FIBA world ranking was 45th. Now it's 31st. That's a positive difference of FOURTEEN places. To say that Gilas under coach Chot achieved “no success” is a gross misunderstanding of Gilas’s gains and pitfalls.

Will changing him work? Maybe, but here’s an indisputable fact we all have to remember — no local coach in the history of Philippine basketball has EXCLUSIVELY focused on the national team for three years. He doesn’t coach in college or in the pros. He only has one team. Our team. The national team. He is, arguably, the local coach with the widest knowledge of international basketball. He has had the most exposure. By all intents and purposes, he is the most qualified.

Given all these things, who can take his place?


There lies the rub. The difference in what goals truly are. Chot himself said "We are going for the gold" in the Asiad.

If beating Iran was the dream, then what was all the effort for? SILVER? All National teams in the past aimed for the GOLD. Why should chot be excused with a silver finish goal? Is he a lesser coach with a lesser team?

Success is measured by results. Simple as that. Otherwise it is mere consolation and self-serving justification.

Chot's tenure can be remembered by the facts. Silver in FIBA Asia. 1 win in FIBA Worlds and a tainted win against Kazakhstan. You can throw in the win against India.

Motley Crew....did chot really assemble a motley crew? Can't blame the line-up...he chose the players himself. Can't really blame lack of practice time. The team showed it could win in all it's games at the FIBA Worlds. How do you blow double-digit leads just like that? Blame the players? They went out there and played their hearts out, they can't be coaching themselves while on the floor. Can they? That's why the team had a coach.

Agreed. Fire all the players. Leave it up to the new coach to choose his line-up as expected. Just a quick note here....it seems you are confusing the role of the players with that of the coach. But sure, fire all the players. They're job is done. They can try-out again for the new team and let the new coach decide like Chot did, and the coach before chot all the way back to Pedro Villanueva.

Really, you want to blame the refs? That's not going anywhere really fast and you know it. There is a saying: Bad calls...good calls...it's called breaks of the game. It's basketball.

Ranking? FOURTEEN places to 31st. So let's go there....Qatar 47th. Kazahkstan 52. Would losing to a higher ranked (27th) South Korea be consoling? Would it bring the team closer to success? You can win over a higher ranked team and feel good, but you can't lose to a team, higher ranked or not.

Again, success vs. gains. To confuse the two would be to confuse the program. Gains lead to success. If I were to follow your reasoning, then the gains should have easily led to the GOLD (unless beating Iran still remained to be a dream come the ASIADS) and after all those "gains" from FIBA WORLDS. As it were, and after being seeded we had to "score on our own goal" for a chance to make it to the ASIAD medal round. It was relegation and classification round instead. But heyyyyy...we beat Mongolia. Right?

Like everything else, there are no guarantees. However, a new coach would mean departing from the coaching performance of the past while continuing the program.

With all you have attributed to Chot isn't it sad that his qualifications brought dismal and disappointing results? So what shall it be....rationalize/justify or sit down and measure objectively? It would only be too easy for any local coach to EXCLUSIVELY devote the next 4 or 5 years to the National team given the same employment terms as Chot. In fact exclusivity should be a requirement...for coach and players!

Who can take his place? The PBA has spoken on what the process should be. Without prejudice to whoever the PBA comes up with....Tab Baldwin should make the candidates list together with several other names.


Ang galing mo talagang magpaliwanag sir Enzo, these Chot Haters are tunneled vision they only look at the mistakes and never on the success that coach Chot ang Gilas team has brought to our Basketball loving Nation


Well said sir Enzo.


I agree with some points, and I disagree with some points.

On the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships: The goal was to qualify to the 2014 World Cup. Check.

On all NTs in the past aiming for gold: Not entirely true. In 2011, yes, we aimed for first because there was only one Asian slot for the Olympics. In 2010, the amateur-laden Gilas squad wasn’t aiming for gold. They were there for the experience and to, well, see if they could compete for any medal. In 2009, we aimed for a top three finish to qualify to the 2010 World Cup in Turkey (we finished 8th under coach Yeng). For any team competing in any tournament, winning the gold is the ideal, but not necessarily the objective. Chot is not excused for finishing with a silver medal in 2013. He is praised. No other coach has been able to steer a Philippine national team to the podium of any senior-level FIBA Asia (FIBA Asia Championships or FIBA Asia Cup) competition since pros were allowed to compete. Our highest before the took the helm? 4th place in 2011 under coach Rajko Toroman. Let’s give credit where it is due, and use it in conjunction with current results when passing judgment on the coach.

On success being measured by results: This is one way (not the only way, maybe not even the best way) of looking at it. If we use this, then, objectively, coach Chot’s “results” since taking over in 2012 are unparalleled. 2 championships (2012 Jones Cup & 2013 Super Kung Sheung Cup), 1 silver, 1 bronze, 1 top four finish, earning a win in the World Cup (last time we won was in 1974), and, again, rising 14 places in the FIBA World Rankings. Perhaps only coach Rajko’s achievements can measure up (2 titles, 2 second place finishes, 2 third place finishes, and 4 top four finishes). I do concede, however, that Gilas has sunk its lowest under coach Chot’s time, too. I mean, placing seventh in the Asian Games is our worst result ever. There’s no discounting that fact, but is that enough to taint every other success he’s given our national program? Again, I say no.

On blaming the refs: Nobody blamed the refs, but nobody can also deny that officiating is ONE AMONG MANY factors in a game. Coaching is one factor, too. How the players play, however, is the biggest factor. We cannot say that the players gave everything they had and then NOT give the coaching staff the same credit. The coach made some bad decisions, sure, but so did the players. Accountability for good and bad results should be shared as a team, not heaped exclusively on a single or a few individuals.


On firing team personnel: I’m glad we somewhat agree on this; however, and I think I should have clarified this (my bad), when I said “fired” I really meant “replaced,” which, at least based on those calling for coach Chot’s head, means that he should be let go and should never return as coach. Again, in the same breath, if coach Chot is fired using the same logic (his team failed = he failed = he should be removed and he should never return again), all current Gilas players should be let go and never return as well. No try-outs. No second or third chances. They failed as a team, so they should all be fired. It’s the kind of knee-jerk logic so many people are using on the coach, but aren’t willing to impose on the players. I personally don’t believe it’s fair.

On the motley crew and coach Chot (and any coach before or after him) deciding which players to get: This is one thing I think people have forgotten — one HUGE handicap for coach Chot is that he NEVER got ALL the players he wanted. I don’t think I need to name the ones who were placed on his list wishlist (even as far back as 2012), but, for one curious (read: dubious) reason or another, were never able to suit up or even attend practices. I blame pro-hoops politicking for this one, and it’s an issue I will discuss in one of the next parts of this series. Heck, even if a new coach were named and given the same perks as coach Chot, he would probably also inherit the same handicaps. Again, it’s not a matter of personnel, but a matter of the system itself that cripples the national team. He worked with what he had given the MANY constraints imposed by the way we do basketball in the Philippines. With a full complement of ALL the players he wanted, would he have been able to put up a better fight in the World Cup and Asian Games? Probably.

On losing to Qatar, Kazakhstan, or any Asian team for that matter: One thing a lot of people also don’t talk much about is how good these Asian teams are regardless of the kind of number-crunching that goes into world rankings. I’m not saying that world rankings don’t matter, but we can’t simply look at a lower-ranked team like Qatar or Kazakhstan and expect to beat them by double-digits. Remember, too, that these teams had all the time prior to the Asian Games to scout us, and they played us with slightly revamped rosters and different coaches. Admittedly, our team may have focused a little too much in prepping for the World Cup and maybe could have benefited from better scouting running up to the Asian Games, but that fact of the matter is Qatar and Kazakhstan aren’t pansies. Both these teams have played Gilas at least a couple of times in the past handful of years, while we’ve never been able to play against Boney Watson or Anatoliy Kolesnikov. Had we lost to a severely outmatched team like Thailand, Macau, or the Maldives, then, sure, something would be way off, but losing to solid teams like Qatar and Kazakhstan, though unexpected, can’t exactly be qualified as highly unlikely.


On gains and successes: Gains lead to success? Sure, I’ll buy that, but who said that all these gains should have EASILY led to a gold medal? There is nothing that will “easily lead” to a gold in the Asian Games. In the SEABA or SEA Games, yeah, sure, we can say a gold is relatively easy, but in the Asiad? No way. Korea won the gold, and they had a tough time despite being hosts. Tourney favorite Iran had to come from behind against Kazakhstan (the lower-ranked, unheralded, and much-overlooked Kazakhstan) in the semis, and then they couldn’t hold on to get the gold in the Finals. There is nothing — NOTHING — not a World Cup berth, not a win over Senegal, not a top three finish in the FIBA Asia Cup — that would “easily lead” to the gold medal. To assume that Gilas should have had a relatively trouble-free run to the top of the podium would be unrealistic (yes, even if we had Andray Blatche and Jayson Castro). It would be a terrible miscalculation of Gilas’s depth and, more importantly, a gross misdiagnosis of the strength of our Asian neighbors.

On defining coaching performance: The vibe I’m getting from a lot of people calling for coach Chot’s ouster is that his coaching performance was terrible. My response is this: why are we boxing in his coaching performance to a single tournament (the Asian Games)? Or, fine, if you want to stretch it, include the World Cup. Why are we overlooking everything else? Are we using the, “He’s only as good as his last game or last tournament,” card? If we are, then, again, it’s a dangerous knee-jerk assessment. I suggest that we take a step back and look at the big picture. What has he won since 2012? How has the program suffered/benefited since he took over? Let us not be myopic in scope when we talk about coaching performance. Big picture. In this context, it should always be about the big picture.

On a coach EASILY devoting himself exclusively to Gilas: I strongly disagree. Every coach in the Philippines has seen the kind of stress that exclusively coaching Gilas brings. Every coach has witnessed how much pressure the (bloated) expectations have. Every coach has seen how every mistake is magnified and how these are used (misused and overused) to drag a well-meaning coach down. Who would want to take on that responsibility? After seeing all the costs that coaching the Philippine National Team has, I’m pretty sure every coach has reflected on this question, “Is coaching Gilas worth all the shit (the criticisms, the expectations, the pressure, the time away from family, etc.) it comes with?” Coach Tim Cone already begged off (he also reaffirmed his confidence in coach Chot BTW). So did coach Yeng Guiao. Gilas assistants Jong Uichico and Norman Black have been assigned full-time head coaching positions in the PBA. Nash Racela, another Gilas assistant, is full-time for FEU and assisting in the pros. Even coach Chot’s own son, Josh, has his hands full as an assistant both in the UAAP and the PBA. I strongly agree that exclusivity for the coach should be a requirement, but, again, who is willing to give up everything he has to take on this mission? So far, only one name is on that list — Chot Reyes. Like you, I would also like to add Tab Baldwin, and, frankly, all the developments are making it possible for him to eventually take over. Would that be a good thing? In theory and on paper, sure, but I just hope he’s ready for all the backlash he will surely face (whether he succeeds or not, and whether the criticisms are deserved or not).

Point of order: As I think we’re dead set on our positions on opposite sides of the fence and that we’ll never really agree on most of these things, I think it’s best to just “agree to disagree.” This, therefore, will be the last word of this fascinating exchange.


Sa totoo lang may pagka-mayabang di naman kasi tong si Chot, tska puro sya pa-PR. Just look at his twitter profile

Head Coach, GILAS Pilipinas & Coachcom.inc; Highest-placed Asian Coach, FIBA-Asia '13. Only 5-time PBA Coach-of-the-Year & Filipino Coach to win Jones Cup title