“Chot Reyes should still be at peace with himself in the knowledge he and his players gave their all and did their best”
Although our 2023 FIBA World Cup campaign did not end the way we all wanted, we at least preserved a bit of our basketball pride by winning against our perennial and toughest Asian rival, China.
And what a game it was.
As Jordan Clarkson said himself, it was hard not to respond with the crowd totally behind the Gilas team.
If that was the way the fans behaved in the previous games, perhaps we could have won more than one game.
As it was, the Filipino basketball fans were booing their own national team together with the coach, Chot Reyes prior to the games which was totally mystifying and uncalled for.
Reyes did not deserve that kind of treatment from the crowd and they should be ashamed of themselves.
It is just a game folks.
In team competitions, the support of the home crowd is essential because they can motivate the home team to sometimes perform beyond expectations as they did in the game with China.
Instead, the crowd was booing their own team which was demoralizing to the entire team.
As Fil-Am Jordan Clarkson again said in an interview, it was a weird experience for him to see the home crowd booing their own team.
It was more than weird. It showed that we still have a lot to learn.
Notwithstanding our passion for the game, we have to learn how to be part of the country effort in supporting our home team to win.
I am sure all the members of the Gilas team together with Coach Reyes also wanted to win and they tried their best as shown by the closeness of the scores.
All the losing games that they played could have gone either way except perhaps the game with newcomer South Sudan.
But sometimes, just like in any sport, one bad break could be disastrous and we have to accept that. Booing the Coach and the team while they are in the court trying their best was to say the least disgusting.
Team Australia which is rated third in the world did not make it to the second round but will nonetheless make it to the Olympics because it is the best of only two teams in the Oceana region. China was also knocked out and has been completely eliminated from the Olympic Games in Paris.
It shows the toughness of the competition.
One thing to remember also is that the Gilas team got together to practice as a whole team only about two weeks before the actual tournament.
In team sport, no matter how individually gifted players are, enough time is needed for the players to blend together and develop unit cohesion.
Even Kai Sotto our center, who was already in the country, reported late because of some issues.
There are also other factors in play in any sports tournament.
Luck, bad officiating and hometown support are also important elements.
Victory or defeat cannot all be blamed on the coach.
And those who behaved shamefully during the Gilas games have a lot of introspecting to do.
So, what happens next?
So far, the SBP has remained quiet about it.
This is probably because the FIBA tournament is still going on.
But it looks like there is now a quiet search for a new Coach and player selection going on.
Question is who it will be.
It also looks that there will be a new set of players bannered by old guards.
But since the Asian Games is just around the corner, we will know who will be the new Coach and players soon enough.
We all wanted to see Gilas winning more games, qualify automatically for the Olympics and end up as the best in Asia but, unfortunately, it was the Japanese team that qualified for the Olympics and became the best Asian performer in the tournament.
With one win and four loses however, we are not yet out of the running for a place in the Paris Olympics next year.
It is just going to be a lot more difficult getting into it.
With Jordan Clarkson already quite busy preparing for the coming NBA season, he will not be available to buttress the Gilas team for the elimination rounds later this year.
Brownlee if he is healthy will apparently take his place together with Ange Koume.
Our other local standouts who will also be reporting back to their clubs and miss the Asian Games in China.
In the meantime, even with the tournament still going on, many in this basketball crazy country of ours who believe they know a lot about basketball have already analyzed what happened and know why we did not win more games.
One valid observation is the late formation of the Gilas team which did not give the players enough time to blend with each other perhaps caused us one defeat.
That observation must be referring to the Gilas-Dominican Republic game.
But in all the commentaries that I read, no one castigated the rude behavior of the fans.
Be that as it may, Chot Reyes should still be at peace with himself in the knowledge he and his players gave their all and did their best.
As his interviews have shown, he was greatly hurt by all the criticisms thrown at him.
As he said, he did not ask for the job but because the country beckoned, he felt he had to report for duty like any good soldier regardless of the consequences and that is more than anything the country can ask from him.