As Gilas Pilipinas kissed its Olympic bid goodbye before its hometown fans, coach Tab Baldwin chose to look at the positives with the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas set to go back to the drawing boards in assessing the national cage program.
Baldwin made this point just moments after seeing Gilas fall short against a determined New Zealand side, 89-80, bowing out of contention in the process in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament Wednesday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The national squad entered the game in a must-win situation after opening the tournament with a 93-84 defeat to world #5 France.
“I think also if you put it (loss in the qualifying tournament) at the context of the program, it’s a positive that we get this competitive experience for Philippine basketball players but also, it’s an eye-opener to understand we need a lot more of this if we expect to be successful in this level,” Baldwin told sports scribes during the press conference.
The American-Kiwi coach cited that world-class teams like New Zealand came into tournament well-prepared, having played a series of friendly matches to ensure it could fine tune its system before going to competition.
“Certainly we were competitive and that’s a positive because there was probably a time that we wouldn’t probably be competitive at this level,” he said.
“And we’ve shown that not just this year but we showed that in 2014 (during the FIBA World Cup) and now, it’s about figuring out how we get the personnel and how we get the experience,” added Baldwin.
Gilas came to the FIBA OQT with at least 5 friendly matches, which Baldwin felt were really not enough to prepare the team against top-caliber opponents like France and New Zealand.
“It’s very difficult for these guys to play at this level when you only do it so few games in a year,” reasoned the 58-year-old Baldwin, who was beaten by his former pupil Paul Henare, currently the New Zealand Tall Blacks’ coach.
“When you look at teams like New Zealand and their build up is I think, they had 10 or 12 matches or preparations, while we have 5, not counting the Iran (tuneup) games,” he said.
“You look at the European teams, this is their life. They play this level all the time so we need more of this, and this is the pathway,” stressed Baldwin. “Trust me that there is no other pathway and if we want to start winning in this level. We got to take a bunch of beatings in this level to know how to win in this level.”
For now, the current Gilas team will be disbanded as the professional players are set to return to their respective PBA mother teams in time for the scheduled opening the Governors Cup.
At the same time, the SBP and the PBA will have to come out with a win-win situation as far as the Gilas cadet program is concerned since the national basketball body intends to revive it in lieu of the new home-and-away format FIBA will start implementing in 2017. — By Richard Dy