Coach Tim Cone believes that it is a lack of continuity that prevents Gilas Pilipinas from maximizing its potential.
PBA’s most accomplished mentor — with 22 titles and counting — delivered his assessment on Tiebreaker Vodcasts’ Coaches Unfiltered, presented by SMART recently.
“We’re never giving the national team a chance to process into what they could be, to reach their pinnacle of how best they could be,” he said.
The Gilas program has existed since 2009, and the past 11 years have seen it undergo many changes in the head coaching department.
Serbian coach Rajko Toroman coached the pioneering Gilas crew until 2011, before Chot Reyes took over the program a year later.
Reyes lasted until 2014, in a stint that saw him steer the country to the FIBA World Cup in Spain, before Tab Baldwin took over the post in 2015. The American-Kiwi mentor, though, only served until 2016 before Reyes was brought back as the chief strategist of the program.
Reyes, the only five-time PBA Coach of the Year, coached until 2018. He ended up stepping aside following the ugly Gilas-Australia brawl.
Yeng Guiao was then put in charge of the program, which saw him lead Gilas back to the World Cup in China last year.
However, the current NLEX coach resigned following Gilas’ winless showing, and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas has been looking for a coach since.
Cone himself had the chance to handle Gilas for the 30th Southeast Asian Games. He led the team on a successful campaign that ended in gold.
That, however, was just a “stop-gap measure”. And in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers, it was TNT consultant Mark Dickel, who called the shots for Gilas on an interim basis.
“Every time you change the coach, you have to start from zero,” said Cone, who coached the PBA Centennial Team that won bronze in the 1998 Asian Games.
“Pick the team, put the system together, and then go to the trial and error. Is this the right system? Are we doing the right things?”
Aside from coaching, though, Cone said to reach desired success, it is integral to have — and keep — a solid core of players.
Asian contenders like China, Korea, and Iran — as well as global powerhouses such as 2019 World Cup finalists Spain and Argentina — are doing just that.
Here, Japeth Aguilar has been the longest-tenured player in the national team, having been with Gilas since its inception. And there’s former captain Gabe Norwood as well.
Then in this current Gilas batch, the core has been taking shape with the likes of Kiefer Ravena, Troy Rosario, Roger Pogoy, and CJ Perez, to name a few.
“They may change coaches but they don’t change players.
“It’s the same guys every year. Sooner or later they might get older and start bringing in, slowly bringing in some. But the core stays the same. And if a core guy leaves, then a player that they already have steps up to be in the core,” Cone said.
Continuity is indeed key, but it’s also a process. And for Cone, he hopes for the program to just take everything — from wins to losses — as it’s all part of growth.
“The worst thing is to play one tournament, and say, ‘Ugh! We failed’, you know… ‘We were bulok,.’ It’s time to change the culture, it’s time to change the system. And now we go on to the next one, we’re doing the same thing again. So that has been my big issue with the national team — we’re not allowing teams to grow and get better,” he said.
“So how does our system, how does our coaching, how does our philosophy, how does our relationships with the players, how does that continue? And that is to me the big question that needs to be answered by the national team,” he opined.
“And once you figured out how to do that and attack that, then I think our national teams become a force especially in Asia, and maybe even in the international arena in Europe and the rest of the world. I really do believe that.”