Yeng Guiao knew the “trouble” he got into when he accepted the challenge of handling Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA Basketball World Cup in China with less than two months to prepare.
Some were saying that Guiao was a victim of the lack of planning and coordination between the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) and the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
But the NLEX mentor took all the blame to the team’s horrendous 0-5 campaign in the tournament where the Philippines finished last in the 32-nation tournament. And he had no remorse in taking the journey.
“I have no regrets,” said Guiao as the team returned to the country yesterday morning with less fanfare.
“As I’ve told to the players, this is still the highlight of my career going to the World Cup. This is the highest that I can achieve as a basketball coach. But of course, part of the responsibility as a basketball coach is the performance of the team,” he added.
Although the team was not expected to go far in the World Cup, the kind of losses the team absorbed irked the basketball-loving Filipinos.
Two blown-out defeats to Italy, 62-108, and Serbia, 67-126, in Group D shattered Gilas — mentally and physically — that led to a disappointing 81-84 overtime loss to No. 39 Angola that put the country out of the Olympic slot hunt.
The misery continued in the classification stage with the Filipino dribblers bowing to Tunisia, 67-86, and Iran, 75-95, to come home empty-handed.
“I knew before that there were certain conditions and certain limitations when I took this job and I accepted those. If I accepted it, I also accepted the responsibility,” Guiao said.
When the 19-man pool was announced last 15 July, Guiao never had a chance to train with a complete attendance, except of course Jordan Clarkson, who was part of the pool, as most of the players were either nursing injuries or had commitment with their respective PBA teams.
The pool even went to Spain for a 10-day training camp minus the three players who were in the final lineup for the World Cup.
The only time the team was complete was 20 August when San Miguel’s June Mar Fajardo and RR Pogoy and Troy Rosario of TNT KaTropa were able to join the practice days after their Commissioner’s Cup finals concluded.
That was 10 days before the team departed for China. And from the start, Guiao knew that should not be the case especially with the magnitude of the World Cup.
Request for a training camp in Russia and a stint with the annual William R. Jones Cup did not push through due to unavailability of the PBA players who were part of the pool.
“I’ve said this before even before we’re preparing. I really wanted to a longer preparation although it won’t be a guarantee that we will win there but that could lessen our 40-plus losses,” Guiao said.
“Even China, who went to NBA D-League, also absorbed the beatings there but it has to go though that painful process. They did not also do well in the World Cup they hosted. And the Philippines was not exempted from that process,” he added.
SBP president Al Panlilio and PBA commissioner Willie Marcial are expected to sit down soon to discuss how to move forward from this debacle.
Fortunately, the country will be hosting the next edition of the 2023 World Cup and Guiao said if we want to play at par with the best in the world, the exposure should not be limited in the Asian continent.
“We can’t stop playing against the best if that’s the path we want to chase,” Guiao said.
“Playing in the World Cup needs years, not months, of preparation.”