How Smart-Gilas fell off the SummitBy Recah Trinidad
Philippine Daily Inquirer
THANK God, indeed, for the Smart Gilas-Pilipinas team and the PBA for that unforgettable spell, capped by the recent championship triumph in the Jones Cup tournament. All of a sudden, when it was least expected, the Philippine national basketball squad topped an international field, capping the rare feat by tripping the US team for the coveted crown in Taipei.
There was euphoria hereabouts, what with the bright hope—brought about by victory—that the Philippines had finally moved close to the power flashpoint when it was a respected and feared power in Asian basketball.
Chot Reyes had to ride on a near-magical finishing kick by the tiny LA Tenorio, but the national mentor deserved all the accolades for that great feat.
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That was over two weeks ago.
Yesterday, coach Reyes was quoted as saying “we could have done better.”
He also spoke of a major revamp and buildup, with the help of the PBA.
Of course, Reyes was no longer speaking of the Jones Cup.
If success in Taipei had for some giddy moments felt like a successful summit assault of Mt. Everest, Reyes was now ruing what they had to suffer in descending back to base camp.
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Too bad they had to immediately travel to Tokyo for the Fiba Asia Men’s championship, before they could fully savor the Jones Cup success.
Anyway, if the triumph in Taipei had indeed felt supreme, it was also due to the PH team’s conquest of tough and tested Iran in the Taiwanese capital.
Ironically, the showdown with Iran in the Tokyo Fiba Asia men’s championship resulted in an all-revealing ruin of the Smart Gilas-Pilipinas squad.
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The national team, generously backed by the respected super tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan, did start out auspiciously in Tokyo.
How it instantly slipped into an anomaly in the clash against the Iranian national squad could not be blamed on poor scouting.
Coach Reyes fully knew that the Iran team they beat in Taipei was not the original Iran national squad they clashed with in Tokyo.
If the euphoria in Taipei turned into a nightmare in Tokyo—and proved most galling to hopeful home fans including this reporter—it was due to the mirage partly caused by lack of honest information on the makeup of the Iranian national squad.
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The Iranian team Smart Gilas-Pilipinas beat in Taipei was not even half of the original Iranian national squad that manhandled the all-pro PH squad in the Tokyo championship series.
Smart-Gilas, equal to summit conquerors in Taipei, was rudely jolted to reality in the Tokyo superiority test.
The national team was victimized by a mirage.
It was too late before they realized they were lightyears away from the real thing.
Of course, there’s no law against pulling your punches on the way to the ultimate summit, the way Iran did.
As expected, coach Reyes has vowed reforms, while turning to the PBA for stronger support and cooperation.
The truth is that it’s the ruin and wounds caused by delusion that often prove toughest to heal and correct.
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