By JONAS TERRADO
Chot Reyes will return to his familiar role as coach of Gilas Pilipinas in time for the 2023 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) announced late Monday, Jan. 31.
The SBP said Reyes was brought back to call the shots after Tab Baldwin stepped down to focus on his duties as coach of the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the UAAP. The American mentor had been in charge of the Gilas program since 2020 prior to the change.
SBP officials led by chairman emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan and president Al Panlilio said tapping Reyes to once again handle Gilas was a no-brainer.
“The ongoing delays caused by the pandemic have resulted in an overlap in schedules between the coming UAAP season and the preparations for the FIBA World Cup 2023 Qualifiers,” the SBP said in a statement.
“In light of this, Gilas head coach Tab Baldwin has expressed to (Pangilinan) that he is stepping down in his duties to focus on his responsibilities to the Ateneo men’s basketball team.”
It will be the fourth time that Reyes will handle the national cage squad, first from 2005 to 2007 followed by a memorable run from 2012 to 2014 that saw Gilas end a 36-year wait for a FIBA World Cup berth.
He was re-hired in 2017 but that tenure ended in controversy in July 2018 when he stepped down in the aftermath of the infamous brawl between Gilas and Australia in the World Cup Qualifiers.
This time, Reyes will be tasked to prepare Gilas for FIBA’s centerpiece event which the country will co-host along with Japan and Indonesia next year.
After a brief absence from coaching, Reyes successfully returned on the sidelines, albeit on the domestic front by steering TNT to this season’s PBA Philippine Cup crown.
“Chot is the sensible choice to take over as Gilas coach because he is very familiar with the program,” Pangilinan said. “He also has solid experience in international competition and FIBA games.”
Gilas is scheduled to begin its campaign in the World Cup Qualifiers in late-February with matches against rival South Korea, India and New Zealand, reportedly at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
It is still uncertain how Reyes will form the squad, which is expected to miss its foreign-based players who were part of recent tournaments like the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers and the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
“Considering the high-level performance expected of Gilas, we decided to go with the coach who brought the country back to the FIBA World Cup in 2014,” Panlilio said.
Reyes said there’s no reason for him to turn his back on serving the country anew despite what he described as a “big challenge” that lies ahead.