Why Chot Reyes can’t build a winning Gilas culture

MANILA, Philippines-One of the most oft-repeated quotes when belaboring on what makes a successful team is this nugget of wisdom from Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not really an act, but a habit. ”

As cliche as it sounds, the simple principle of repetition and habituation as a way to attain excellence never goes out of style.

Its pertinence becomes even more pronounced when it is applied to the performance of Gilas Pilipinas since Chot Reyes took over as head coach and program director in the early part of 2022.

Reyes has made sure to remind people every chance he gets that the bigger goal of the program is to prepare the Gilas squad for the 2023 FIBA ​​World Cup, which the country will be hosting.

This has become a convenient, default excuse each time a Reyes-mentored Gilas team suffers the ignominy of a defeat to a team which the previous year’s iteration of the national team would have beaten, or at the very least, be competitive with.

What Reyes should be answering to himself and to the Filipino fans who have been earnestly following every outing of the squad is how he intends to build a winning team when, one, there is a revolving door policy in the composition of the national team, and two, he has been unable to steer the Gilas team to victory in games that matter.

It remains unclear what kind of squad the Philippines will have for next year’s FIBA ​​World Cup.

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) has made it clear it agrees with the contention that the Philippines needs PBA players for the World Cup, an assertion that has been debunked many times over by the showing of the all-amateur Gilas squad under coach Tab Baldwin.

But if we are using this year as preparations for the World Cup, how come we do not see the PBA players in the FIBA ​​Asia Cup despite the public declaration of league officials that all their players will be made available to the national team? Where were the PBA players during the FIBA ​​World Cup qualifiers when the national squad was undermanned and undersized?

Ah, yes, the PBA players were and still are with their mother clubs because the PBA conference is ongoing. But the SBP will allow the PBA players to be inserted in the Gilas lineup eventually, thereby negating Reyes’ pronouncement after Wednesday’s thrashing from Lebanon that the young players are gaining meaningful experience in the Asia Cup.

What value is the experience they garnered if they will eventually be replaced by PBA players, who at this stage cannot yet be compelled to leave their mother clubs whose interests seem to always take precedence over national team duties?

What kind of culture and mindset then is Reyes instilling in the national team when he cannot coach them to a respectable standing even in the Southeast Asian level?

Just the facts. The SEA Games loss to Indonesia will linger for decades to come, but what should also be noted is how the PBA-reinforced Gilas team could barely get past Thailand in that same tournament. Less than a year prior, a Gilas squad devoid of any PBA player breezed past both Indonesia and Thailand.

Just the facts. In the FIBA ​​Asia World Cup qualifiers at home last February, Reyes coached a Gilas squad that got blown out by 25 points by New Zealand. Less than a year prior, a Gilas squad devoid of any PBA player beat South Korea twice and almost won over world superpower Serbia that paraded NBA players.

We should never question the hearts of the players – whether they are amateurs, from the PBA, or from the Japan B. League – who put on the Gilas jersey.

Their dedication to the national cause was personified by Thirdy Ravena who came back in the game versus Lebanon after getting bloodied from a hard fall. But they could only do so much when they are placed in a situation where they are not given the resources, the manpower, the size, the system, and the right mentoring to build the habit of winning as a national squad.

It does not help that Reyes himself does not seem to want to acknowledge his flaws and his own limitations. In a recent exchange with a netizen over LinkedIn, Reyes even lauded his “no-system,” “bara-bara”, DDO (dribble drive offense) brand of coaching as responsible for helping us earn a World Cup berth in 2014.

That 2014 World Cup campaign which stemmed from our silver-medal finish in the 2013 FIBA ​​Asia will always have Reyes’ imprint. These are achievements he deserves credit for.

We can probably even concede that Reyes has the best international basketball resume among local coaches. Remember, he also steered the Philippines to the Jones Cup title in 2012. Just the facts.

But Reyes appears unwilling to go down from his castle in the clouds where he has been living off his past glories.

Truth is, his track record as Gilas coach post-2014 FIBA ​​World Cup has been average at best, and that is putting it kindly.

In the 2014 Asian Games, he could only lead the national team to a seventh-place finish in the same competition where he infamously instructed his players to shoot in the opponent’s basket.

In his return as Gilas coach in 2017, the Philippines finished seventh in the FIBA ​​Asia Cup.

In the 2019 FIBA ​​Asia World Cup qualifiers, Gilas won twice each over Japan and Chinese Taipei but were dominated in two games by Australia. The second game versus the Boomers resulted in the ugly brawl at the Philippine arena.

No wins over South Korea, Lebanon, Iran, Australia, and New Zealand.

Just the facts.

So how does the SBP expect someone who does not have a winning resume in the international scene mold a team into a mean, wrecking machine with a self-belief that it can hang with the best teams in the World Cup?

How will confidence be injected among players by a coach who is content on just placing in the top eight in the FIBA ​​Asia Cup?

We can probably expect SBP to milk whatever mileage they can get from beating India. Beating India repeatedly this year and winning over the likes of Singapore and Malaysia hardly constitute building a winning attitude in the national team.

Winning is a habit, true. But so is losing. At this point, it is evident which habit is being built, even if not by design, by Reyes’ handling, or mishandling, of the Gilas program. – Rappler.com