Despite falling short of advancing to the second round of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023, New Zealand head coach Pero Cameron expressed gratitude that his mentor, Tab Baldwin, came to support them on Wednesday.
Baldwin, who has been coaching in the Philippines since 2015, was present during the Tall Blacks’ heartbreaking 83-74 defeat to Greece in a battle for the final ticket from Group C.
Wearing a Tall Blacks cap, the Ateneo head coach watched as New Zealand took control of the first half against Hellas, only to succumb in the second half.
“It was great,” said Cameron of the support they got from Baldwin, a legend of his own in New Zealand.
“Anytime we have former coaches and someone who’s been good to me especially good to me in the past. I think any support from everybody from a former coach of mine is great,” added Cameron, a FIBA Hall of Famer.
Baldwin was the head coach of the Tall Blacks from 2001 to 2006, during which Cameron was one of his players.
The two of them, along with the entire New Zealand squad, made history in the 2002 FIBA World Championships by reaching the semifinals and securing a fourth-place finish, the country’s highest ranking in the tournament. They also competed together in the 2004 Athens Olympics and the 2006 World Championships.
Eighteen hours after the heartbreak against Greece, the Tall Blacks returned to the SM Mall of Asia Arena for their first classification round match.
They faced a Mexico side that had suffered a 100-72 defeat against Egypt. The 12 Guerreros, with just one day of rest, dominated the game and secured a 108-100 victory, tying New Zealand at 1-3 in Group N.
“I hate to say it, Mexico deserved the win tonight and it hurts. I’ve seen this guys and I know what they can do and I believe in our group and it’s tough,” said Cameron.
“There are no easy games here in the World Championships and we must get up for the next game.”
Although he admittedly didn’t pay much attention to other groups in different venues, Cameron mentioned that if Baldwin were leading Gilas Pilipinas, he knows what his mentor is capable of.
“I know what he’s capable of, I haven’t been paying too much attention to that pool. We have more to focus on. I know he’s a good coach but my mind is here, focused on what we gonna do.”
New Zealand will conclude its campaign on Saturday, aiming to finish on a high note with a win against Egypt at 4:45 p.m.