Unless you’ve been living under a rock or have been in total self-quarantine even from social media these past few weeks, you would have seen the issue involving Gilas Pilipinas program director Tab Baldwin and the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
You’ve probably viewed the video clip where Coach Tab candidly described his initial impression that Filipino coaches were “tactically immature”, and you may have seen the myriad consequences that arose from his commentary.
First, a good number of local coaches were in an uproar, taking offense at what they felt was a jab at their coaching acumen and their pride. This was followed by the Basketball Coaches Association of the Philippines (BCAP) crying foul, even considering Coach Tab’s comments as a smear on our spirit of nationalism.
Next, the PBA itself took offense, specifically at Coach Tab’s remarks about what he perceived as skewed officiating in the league, which has supposedly hampered the coaching prowess of our local bench tacticians. The league consequently slapped Coach Tab with a PHP 75,000.00 fine on top of a three-game suspension.
Even the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), which employs coach Tab as the head of the Gilas Men’s Basketball Program, kept its distance from Coach Tab’s comments. And to top it all off, Coach Tab was let go by TNT last Tuesday — though upper management has said that it was a decision made even before the PBA season began.
Strangely enough, though, many other people stood up in support of Coach Tab.
Most fans, at least based on social media reactions, supported coach Tab’s position, noting that Philippine basketball still has a long way to go in terms of matching global standards. A few coaches also abstained from the chorus of complaints against Coach Tab, while Senator Dick Gordon decried the PBA’s decision to fine the former Gilas Pilipinas head coach.
Beneath the surface, even whispers and doubts of coach Tab’s standing went about. Was this issue going to snowball? Would this eventually lead to coach Tab being ousted not just from Ateneo de Manila University, but from the Gilas Men’s program?
Most fans, of course, did and do not want things to go down that direction. They appreciate Coach Tab’s value to the program and to Philippine basketball as a whole.
What if, however, the situation does deteriorate? What if, even after coach Tab already apologized to the PBA and paid his fine, there would still be calls for his removal from Gilas? Or what if coach Tab himself just says he’s had enough, packs his bags, and takes the next flight out of Manila into the waiting arms of the other teams and countries that are undoubtedly knocking at the door?
In my humble opinion, that would be the absolute worst-case scenario, especially now with our preparations for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup back in motion, and with several once-in-a-generation talents in the Gilas Men’s pipeline.
If Coach Tab leaves, we’d never be able to replace his experience on the international stage. We’re talking about a guy whose loftiest goal is not to make it in the NBA but to reach even greater heights than he already has in international basketball. We’re talking about a guy who has two FIBA Asia Cup silver medals and a FIBA Asia Stankovic Cup gold medal; who is the only coach in our 7,100+ islands to ever have coached in the Final Four of the FIBA Basketball World Cup. No coach in our country can match that resume, could hold a candle to that wealth of international experience. One of coach Tab’s biggest goals is to help a program make it to the Olympics, and guess what, we’re that program.
Well, unless we drop the ball and let go of one of the main architects of our national team’s future.
Remember, too, that in his seven years in the Philippines, coach Tab has achieved a modicum of success that most if not all other local coaches can only dream of. This man has led Ateneo de Manila to titles left and right, even representing the country in the 2018 Jones Cup. And he’s built a dynasty that, frankly speaking, probably will not give up its UAAP title in the next two or three seasons unless coach Tab leaves.
This is a gem of a coach who speaks like an army general.
He clearly isn’t a fan of sugarcoating things, and what he cares for the most is developing players and cultivating a rich team culture. That’s what we all want for our national program, yes? That’s what we all agree we need, right? Someone proven. Someone with the experience. Someone who plays no favorites. Someone who values merit over name recall. Someone who will hold the people around him, even himself, accountable. Someone for whom his players and coaching staff will fight tooth and nail. Someone who, despite not being born of this country, has the experience, capability, and mindset to make this country’s basketball team a world-level power again.
If worse comes to worst and Coach Tab bolts, who else can check all those boxes? Many would be willing, that’s for sure, but in all honesty, who else can get the job done?