MVP seeks new road with Gilas

Most Valuable Pangilinan.

With all the companies and organizations he has control of in the Media, Telecommunications, Electric and Water industries; Manny V. Pangilinan could very well be that.

The way he became a business magnate in the Philippines is an amazing story to hear. I won’t share it to you though, because I don’t know how he did become one.

What I do know is that If Eminem is the rap god, Mr. MVP is the Basketball god here in the Philippines.

In the PBA, the country’s first and only professional basketball league, MVP owns 3 of the 12 current teams. Simple math says he owns 25% of the whole league. Show me another league where an owner can have so much power and influence.

No wonder, he was given the red carpet treatment to be part of SBP (Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas/Basketball Association of the Philippines) and even allow one of his companies, “SMART”, as part of the national basketball team name.

Seriously, “Smart Gilas” – again, show me another national basketball team that looks and sounds like it’s playing for a private company, rather than a country. But my hatred for the use of the national team as a marketing platform does not diminish what the team has accomplished.

Philippines is such a huge basketball-crazy country. No floods nor brownouts will ever stop us from playing, no matter the size of the ring, nor the ball. It’s in our blood. And it showed last year.

2013 FIBA Asia Championship was held in Manila, the first time in 40 years. China was a huge favorite to win the tournament (former NBA player Yi Jianlian and Sun Yue suited up), followed by the likes of Chinese-Taipei, Korea and Iran. Bookies had the Philippines as one of the worst teams in the tournament – how wrong the bookies were.

Smart Gilas ended a 35-year drought to play in the FIBA Asia Championship Finals against Iran and lost, but won numerous fans like me. They had players like Marc Pingris, who personified our “never say die” attitude when it comes to anything, Jimmy Alapag who (ironically) performed big during crunch times, and Jayson Castro, who completed his transformation from a star to the best point guard in Asia. Also, they have one of the three 2014 FIBA World Cup tickets in Spain.

Again, GIlas was one of the major underdogs in the world’s third highest basketball tournament, behind the NBA Playoffs and the Olympics. In an effort to be competitive during the tournament, MVP and Chot Reyes (then-Gilas coach) signed Andray Blatche, the NBA journeyman whose greatest highlight was when he tried DESPERATELY to complete his triple-double (http://bit.ly/1E7QzBA).

Blatche’s signing resulted in Marcus Douthit, a former LA Laker who played with one good leg during the FIBA Asia Championship, being relegated to team manager. Larry Fonacier, Jay Washington, Jared Dillinger, and big Beau Belga had to bow out. Paul Lee was added late to give Chot Reyes more weapons.

Most of Gilas’ games were aired very early in the morning, but you could feel the Filipino spirit supporting the team. This is what I call the “Manny Pacquiao Moment.” Gilas had a tough draw, facing the likes of Croatia (#12 in the world), Greece (#10), Argentina (#3), Puerto Rico (#15), and Senegal (#30). Believe it or not, Gilas pushed all of those teams to their limits, coming home with 4 heartbreaking losses and 1 significant victory; Philippines’ 1st FIBA World Cup win in 40 years.

It was the best showing of our national basketball team. It was a great time to be a Filipino, basketball fan or not.
But it wasn’t the best time to be Chot Reyes.

During the World Cup, Chot Reyes made some very debatable decisions during the crucial moments that caused Gilas winnable games, and the seed to be part of the sweet 16. He didn’t play Junemar Fajardo enough. He would not stop removing the player on a roll during the dying moments. He kept forcing Japeth Aguilar in the starting lineup, despite his struggling. He failed to realize that the tournament was a sprint, not a marathon.

I’ve always believed in him, in his ability to bring out the best out of players by motivating them. There are just some times that he becomes the strict teacher in high school that we all hated. And we don’t listen to strict teachers, right? The cracks of the Gilas team were slowly showing. There were reports that if Chot had not won the Senegal game, he would not return as the head coach.

After the FIBA World Cup, Gilas only had 15 days until the start of the Asian Games in Incheon. Andray Blatche was ineligible because of the residency rule. It was a move that caught the Philippine team off-guard, a move they considered was a tactical one to remove its best player out of the competition. Even without the NBA veteran though, GIlas was NOW one of the favorites to win the whole tournament, against a host of nations they have faced before.

Fatigue. Chemistry. Coaching. Gilas couldn’t recover the Pinoy Pride, and won only 2 of 5 games. The writing was on the wall for Chot Reyes, after losing 3 straight games against Iran, Qatar, and South Korea. They finished 7th, a position they thought they would never be in. As for Chot, it was all over.

It took months, but finally MVP realized what was wrong with GIlas: everything.

Now, Chot Reyes is out, and most, if not all, of the players will be back in the Gilas pool. A new identity is needed. They have to start with finding the right coach first. The right person who balances the motivational aspect and the x’s and o’s of basketball. They also need to find the right players who can battle the monsters of USA, Spain, Argentina and more. Some players that come into my mind are Bobby Ray Parks, Kiefer Ravena, Terrence Romeo, and JV Casio. Young gutsy players who are ready to shine in the big lights.

It’s a very harsh verdict, especially for a team that won the hearts of many, but a new Gilas program is needed.
It’s an awful end to a wonderful story, but there are no Cinderellas here.

This is why Manny V. Pangilinan became a business magnate. He has made tough calls all throughout his life.

Look how those decisions turned out.

– David Gamboa
facebook.com/reydavidgamboa
twitter.com/reydavidgamboa

(Image from: Dodo Catacutan, Spin.PH, http://contents.spin.ph/image/5056b2cb26334.jpg)

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One thought on “MVP seeks new road with Gilas

  1. Pingback: Not so smart, Gilas. | Fresh Off The Bench

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