Thailand head coach Chris Daleo was just glad to be back with the Thailand Men’s National Basketball Team a couple of weeks prior to flying to Clark.
“I’m very excited. Even when I came back I had to go on quarantine and the whole city of Thailand was put on lockdown. Two weeks of quarantine plus two months without any basketball when I got here,” Daleo shared to Tiebreaker Times.
“So when the players got vaccinated, they kind of opened it up to prepare for the third window, I was ecstatic to be on the court. I like my team, my team likes me. It’s good to be back on the hardwood again,” he continued.
“I was very happy about that because it felt like getting out of prison.”
Why was he excited? Well, it’s a long story to tell.
Coming off a silver finish in the 30th Southeast Asian Games, the Thais were able to ride the momentum to the first window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers last February of 2020.
Despite facing South Korea on the road, Thailand put up a fight against the 31st-ranked basketball team in the world, only falling by seven, 86-93.
“I was happy with the effort against Korea but I was not happy with the result. It was a good building block for this country basketball-wise to show that they can play competitively. I thought we changed our defense up well, I thought we pressured well, I thought it took some time for our guys to get confidence like, ‘Hey! We can compete with these guys’,” he recalled.
“We lost by seven and I thought that we are in a good position now.”
However, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic struck a month later.
Daleo, an American, had to go home to the States to of course tend to his family. However, when FIBA Asia resumed the Cup Qualifiers last October, he could not fly back to Thailand due to travel restrictions.
It resulted to “Sax” Manid Niyomyindee taking over as head coach for the Manama window while only 10 players traveled to Manama, Bahrain.
The results were disastrous to say the least.
“That is why I was so disappointed with the second window, I watched it at home and they just didn’t play well. Whatever gains we made, we slipped back. So, now we are 0-4 and we have an uphill battle in the last window.
“That is why I am so upset with the second window. We played the Cadet team and it was our chance to do something and we lost by thirty,” said Daleo as Thailand lost both of their games against Gilas by an average margin of 28.0 points.
“Then we beat Indonesia in the SEA Games and then lost by seventeen. We watched a lot of films and I asked why did they do this? They know better. Now, we got to build back again not only for the third window but also for the SEA Games,” he continued as Thailand lost to Indonesia as well, 90-76.
That is why when FIBA Asia announced that the final window of the Qualifiers will take place in Doha last February, the Basketball Sports Association of Thailand called up 20 players headlined by Moses Morgan.
The Doha window ultimately got canceled and was moved to Clark in June.
But that has been the story of Daleo and Thailand. It’s about working with what is given.
“Our boss who runs BSAT wants to win and he wants the best players out there but as far as what goes on behind the scenes, I’m not involved in that. And I go to work with what I have. People ask me all the time, ‘Why isn’t Tyler Lamb over there? Why isn’t Moses Morgan there?’ There’s a lot of factors but I’m not involved in those conversations and neither do I complain about those. This is what I have and I’m going to put the best product on the floor and win games with it,” he bared.
“Would I like to have some players there? Sure! But I don’t cry or pout about it. We just go to work with what we have. That’s the way I approach every day.”
High will be the mountain they would climb. But ever the fighter, Daleo won’t go down just easily.
Yes, qualifying for the Asia Cup is a long shot but the Hanoi Games is just around the corner. More importantly, they want to put on a good showing for Thai basketball.
“My job is to wake up every day with the sole goal of winning games.
“That’s my job every day — it’s to take my players, work them, work on a system that’s going to help them win games. If for some reason, we don’t win that game? At least, you want to make basketball fans to say that we put in a good game. Like they no what they were doing and they didn’t just run around like crazy. They didn’t win today, but these are the positives. That’s how we go by,” he closed.