Current Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles head coach Tab Baldwin is as frank as they come.
This was most apparent in his recent appearance on retired PBA legend Eric Menk’s podcast “Staying Major podcast”.
Among the many things the two basketball touched on was the Philippines’ style of play. Baldwin, who famously coached New Zealand to a semifinals appearance in the FIBA World Cup in 2002, vehemently expressed his aversions towards the current meta of Pinoy hoops.
While he acknowledges the country’s unique pride for basketball, the American mentor proposes that pride also hinders our growth as a basketball nation.
Midway through the podcast, Menk mentioned several UAAP games and being perplexed at the amount of turnovers. This set off Baldwin.
“Having watched UAAP games, it’s more like a track meet than a basketball game sometimes. It seems like the most important thing is how fast we can get the ball from one end to the rim. In trying to do that, we don’t even get it there, you know, we turn it over,” Baldwin said following a rough explanation of how he and his staff preach efficiency to the Blue Eagles.
“So, I agree that offensive efficiency isn’t a high priority in most UAAP teams. And even though we may pay lip survive to that, the way our players play, and you’ll laugh again when I say this, but it’s ‘the Philippine-style’. Well, “the Philippine-style” is wrong when it leads to 20 plus turnovers or even 15 plus turnovers a game in a 40-minute game.”
Menk went on to say that Pinoys have often used the Philippine style as a crutch or excuse. To this, the former Gilas head coach points at the Philippines’ insular view on basketball. Having had several stints all over the world, Baldwin advocates for coaches and players to look at basketball cultures and systems from all over the world, not just the U.S.
“The problem is I think that there’s a blinder on Filipino… the Philippine basketball landscape because this country has been good for so long that it becomes insular — that it doesn’t look outside. When it does look outside, it only looks at the U.S. and it’s big mistake because we can’t be the U.S. It’s simply impossible,” Baldwin said.
“Our cultural development here as a basketball nation has revolved around really the streetball which has dominated so much of the play in this country. It is entertaining, it is fun, and it will work… inside the borders of this country. But if you wanna be successful outside, you’ve got to rise to the level of the opponents.”
Baldwin expounds on his point, looking at how the game is coached and how it has affected the development of local players, particularly TNT Katropa Terrence Romeo.
“And if I could just encapsulate what, I believe, the Philippine style of basketball is from a negative standpoint as opposed to what we should be, it’s very simply this: in Philippine basketball, you put the ball in the players’ hands and that player sees what he can create for himself,” he lamented. “When that runs into a wall, then he gives it to somebody else who does the same thing. Great basketball is played by players who, whatever they do on the floor, they do it to see what they can create for their teammates.
“And it’s a shame because… and I think Terrence Romeo is one. I love Terrence — I think he’s a tremendous player. But you take the ball out of his hands and he has a hard time being effective on the floor. Put the ball in his hands, he can do amazing things either from his hands to the rim or from his hands to the shooter. But Terrence would have very few, what we call, hockey assists; reading one step beyond what happens when the ball leaves his hands. This is where, I think, great basketball and great basketball players live.”
Baldwin also gives a candid take on how he had to change his coaching philosophies when he took over for Ateneo, why he thinks Stanley Pringle is the best guard in Asia, what Kai Sotto should do to continue improving, and his most honest view on Andray Blatche on the 60-minute podcast which you can listen to here: