Monday, November 10, 2014

The Next Gilas Pilipinas National Basketball Coach?

The media has jumped on the national team bandwagon. 
The Next Gilas Pilipinas National Basketball Coach?
Stories from mainstream press and sports bloggers are trying to anticipate or even second-guess what the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas will do regarding forming a selection process for the next Philippine national basketball coach. All of a sudden, names are being thrown into the conversation, even those who are illogical choices, just to have a story. 
With all due respect to those being mentioned – and some of those names are truly legends of the game – there are still many things to consider along the way before any list can be generated, not to mention, be pared down. All candidates will have to be contacted to see if they would be interested in the job, which is a full-time commitment, after all. Or else, what’s the point of even mentioning them? Below are some things to consider.

They will do the job. This is not to say that they are after the job, or would campaign for the position, but more of considering it a privilege and responsibility. Tim Cone and Yeng Guiao have already said they would rather not make the commitment because of their responsibilities in the PBA. I would be wary of anyone offering their services, more so when you take into account the enormity and scrutiny you would have to endure. In Latin American countries, failed football coaches have been known to commit suicide out of shame. I would rather someone commit to the job in a low-key manner if offered than someone who would think it a nice feather in their cap. This is a calling, not a calling card.

One PBA coach I spoke with placed it simply.

“The times have changed,” said the coach, who has had experience being in international competition. “Right now, the basketball community is divided. Before, you could get one hundred percent support from our countrymen. If I could have that, and the material I wanted, then okay. But I don’t think that would happen at this point.”

They can do the job. We’re talking about two things here: competence and capacity. Capacity means that, aside from the time, they will physically be able to handle the stress and effort and preparation needed to put together the best possible team and get them ready for the daunting challenge of qualifying for the Olympic Games. Age and fitness are obviously a consideration. In 2002, national team head coach Ron Jacobs suffered a stroke from which he never recovered, and it took a decade before the national program rose above that unforeseen and unfortunate event. In terms of competence, does the candidate have any experience as a coach in international competition? What are the coach’s credentials, particularly in recent years? Are they abreast of trends in international amateur competition?

They are popular with the stakeholders. What this means is that the PBA team owners will be at peace lending players to the national program with this person running it. This means that whoever will be considered will have the respect and more importantly, obedience from the players who will eventually be selected. Do the players know who he is as a person? Will they run through a brick wall for their coach? What is this coach’s reputation? Will his personality be a rallying point, or a cause for division? Can he take advice, and is he flexible? Does he respect and have the respect of his assistants, scouts and trainers? Is his coaching a democracy or a dictatorship, or somewhere in between?

On the other hand, how much latitude will the new head coach have in terms of practice time? A new coach will need to have the players at least thrice a week to implement a new system, a tough task considering the rigors of playing in the PBA. But, unfortunately, the deadline for the next FIBA Asia is fixed, and approaches by the day. Time is of the essence. Gilas Pilipinas initially had practice once a week until a few months before their first overseas trip. Will that be enough given the new coach and set of players and the short timetable? It’s hard to say.

Let’s also remember that there’s room for more than one expert on the team. With the magnitude of what is at stake, having assistants and consultants is not a bad thing as long as the roles are clear. It would be a great confidence builder for the players to also have former players boosting their confidence and sharing past experiences on the bench. From what we’ve seen with PBA coaches, they respect each other and are willing to take on subordinate roles for the greater cause. Plus, each of the assistants can focus all their energies on a more specialized task, like defense, scouting, working with the bigs, and so on. More hands make the work light.

Perhaps the best thing that must happen is that the public likewise give the national basketball program a clean slate, a chance to build on what has previously been done, without issues revolving around personalities. There is only one clear next goal, to qualify for the Olympics. The PBA has been unstintingly generous and willing to take the risk as the unquestionable leading organization in the sport. What remains is to not erase the past, but to learn from it and add to it. We are no longer starting from scratch. As has been said, we are now part of the discussion. Let’s give them something new and remarkable to talk about.


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