ANALYSIS: Tim Cone is right, but SBP still needs to do its job | Inquirer Sports

ANALYSIS: Tim Cone is right, but SBP still needs to do its job

By: - Sports Editor / @ftjochoaINQ
/ 05:08 PM July 23, 2022
Gilas Pilipinas Kiefer Ravena

Gilas Pilipinas before taking on India in the Fiba World Cup Asian Qualifiers at Mall of Asia Arena. Photo by Fiba

What a difference a change of messenger does.

Tim Cone defended Chot Reyes and the recent struggles of Gilas Pilipinas last Thursday—and the two-time Grand Slam coach somehow managed to put a lot of things in its proper perspective.

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“I’ve looked at it in a way that this isn’t an evaluation period. We’ve already assured our spot in the [Fiba World Cup], so why put all of it in right now?” Cone said.

The Ginebra coach even referenced a late basketball genius, whose national program blueprint remains the unmatched standard against which other programs are measured.

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“No. 1, if you’re Ron Jacobs—Ron Jacobs wouldn’t show his whole hand this early time,” the PBA’s winningest coach went on. “To me, it’s more of an evaluation, or almost like a tryout to see who’s playing at this point. Again, like we’ve been talking about in terms of our preparation and in terms of our trying to develop our team and getting ready for the playoffs, I think this kind of period is the same for the national team at this point, they’re just getting ready and trying different guys.”

Cone’s words are the ones you’d find in between the lines of Reyes’ statements after every Gilas Pilipinas debacle. It’s to give the young guys experience, Reyes said, adding that the true measure of his program should come when it matters most: The Fiba World Cup.

But the sober nature of Cone’s explanation, ranged against the defiance in Reyes’ tone, makes a huge difference.

And there’s another backdrop that’s being cited nowadays that shows a stark contrast between two World Cup teams.

After accomplishing milestone after milestone with the national women’s football team on the way to booking—the hard, win-in-the-qualifiers way—a berth in the Women’s World Cup, coach Alen Stajcic said the goal was to make the most of the months leading to the global showcase to prepare the Filipinas for their trailblazing stint.

Except that team has been winning while it is preparing. They’ve won friendlies. They finished with a bronze in the Southeast Asian Games. And just recently, on the same night New Zealand toyed with Gilas Pilipinas, the Filipinas won for the country its first international crown, the AFF Women’s championship.

But behind the Filipinas success, largely unseen, is the way the Philippine Football Federation (PFF), through its president, Mariano Araneta Jr., and the chief financier of the women’s team, businessman Jeff Cheng, have absolute control over the program—something that the Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas (SBP) lacks.

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Araneta and Cheng have not only given Stajcic the logistical needs and match appearances the team needs, they have also made sure that they get the needed players to suit up for the national squad.

Since making the World Cup, the Filipinas have been playing with a core that will most likely make the World Cup. Sarina Bolden. Olivia McDaniel. Quinley Quezada. Haley Long. Tahnai Annis. Camille Rodriguez. Inna Palacios. Name your favorite team member right now and she is either likely to make the World Cup squad or is fighting for a spot there.

“It’s something like the biggest that you can achieve as a player,” Sara Eggesvik, the promising 25-year-old midfielder whose Filipino mother is married to a

Norwegian said. “It sure is a big target for me, and I want to train well and hopefully get a spot. We’ll see.”

In reality, as national federation, the SBP should be able to dictate which players they want and put them together to train as early as possible—regardless of how the UAAP, the PBA or other stakeholders feel about it.

The SBP on the other hand, has to deal with stakeholders it has very little power over.

When the country lost the SEA Games gold, the clamor was strong to bring back Tab Baldwin and his sterling team during the Fiba Asia qualifiers. Who were part of that team? Kai Sotto, Dwight Ramos, Ange Kouame, Carl Tamayo, SJ Belangel, RJ Abarrientos, Geo Chiu. How many of them were available for the SEA Games? Zero.

Maybe it would have been difficult for the SBP to free Sotto and Ramos from their overseas obligation. But Tamayo, Kouame, Chiu, Belangel, Baltazar, and Abarrientos were right here at home playing with the UAAP, and SBP stakeholder. And Kouame, Chiu and Belangel played for Ateneo, whose benefactor is the most important financier of Philippine basketball right now—Manny V. Pangilinan.

According to the Fiba website, for the World Cup qualifiers, the Philippines has cycled through 22 players through four games. More new faces suited up for the SEA Games team and a few additional ones for the Fiba Asia Cup. And then there’s Jordan Clarkson, whose name has been added to the mix.

It’s gotten to the point that amid the struggles of Gilas Pilipinas, the SBP has been reduced to imploring for stakeholders to recognize the urgency of the World Cup, which the country will host to the tune of around P1 billion—and that’s just the local costs.

“We need the best to play and be allowed to play. We call on all stakeholders to unite for flag and country,” said SBP president Al S. Panlilio.

Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes coaching during a Fiba World Cup Asian Qualifiers game.

Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes coaching during a Fiba World Cup Asian Qualifiers game. –FIBA BASKETBALL

In reality, as national federation, the SBP should be able to dictate which players they want and put them together to train as early as possible—regardless of how the UAAP, the PBA or other stakeholders feel about it.

It wouldn’t mean an early show of hand. Because on that point, Tim Cone is right.

“The real stuff is still ahead of us … when they form the whole team and when we can all start moving forward,” he said. “I just don’t think we are at that part right now. I don’t think anybody, even in the other countries, can name the 12 players.”

That should defuse some of the hate bombs thrown the way of Reyes, the coach.

But apart from Japan, which we would probably not face off with in the World Cup, all the other teams qualified for the Fiba tournament by winning games. That means whatever group Gilas Pilipinas lands in, it will join some of the world’s best.

The PFF understands that. That’s why Araneta, Cheng and Stajcic continue to suit up what eventually will become the core of the World Cup team.

And at some point, sooner than later, Reyes, as program director, and the SBP will need to do the same. After all, that’s what national federations are there for.

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TAGS: Fiba World Cup, SBP
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