Baldwin: Gilas fought for the country
CHANGSHA CITY, China – Tab Baldwin finally got in the mood to talk after losing in the gold medal match of the Fiba Asia Championship on Saturday night and praised his Gilas Pilipinas crew for laying it all on the floor “for the right reasons.”
After initially declining to be interviewed after a 78-67 setback at the hands of mighty China, Baldwin acceded to the Inquirer’s request and showed the poignant side of the man who came just a tad short to taking the Philippines back to the Olympics.
“They fought extremely hard, they fought for the country. They didn’t fight for me,” Baldwin said, just a few minutes after dismissing his boys from the hushed Philippine locker room, which was just a few steps away from the boisterous Chinese dugout.
“They (Filipino players) fought for themselves, they fought for their families (back home) and they fought for the right reasons,” he said.
Baldwin pointed to one reason why the Philippines failed to turn the tide in its favor in the title match – just the second between the two nations counting the 1990 debacle in Beijing with an all-pro team coached by the legendary Robert Jaworski.
“We just didn’t shoot the ball well, we searched all around and didn’t find a solution,” Baldwin explained. “We never got our offense on track. We didn’t hit the shots that were open.
“You have to give China credit, they’re good. They’re really good.”
And did size matter in the championship match?
“It’s an advantage, but it’s not the deciding factor,” he said. “You still have to execute (and make the shots). They did it, and we didn’t.”
Baldwin admitted to having fallen in love with his intrepid crew – a mix of stars and superstars and two of the oldest players in the tournament that earned slots because of holdouts from who would have been shoo-ins from the PBA.
“They’re my team and they are a great group of people,” he said. “They are an outstanding group of guys to work with, certainly committed to the task at hand. They certainly have all my respect, and I hope, the respect of our fans back home.”
Losing in the gold medal match meant that the Philippines didn’t qualify automatically to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics set next year in Brazil.
But the Philippines can still get to the Games for the first time again in 43 years, provided it hurdles a tougher qualifying tournament a month before Rio.
And having been so attached to the players who gave it their all for the last two months, Baldwin thinks that the next shot is so far away.
“It’s 10 months away, and that’s a hell of a time for me to be away from these guys.”