The absolutely winless performance of the Philippine Men’s National Basketball Team, aka Gilas Pilipinas, during the soon-to-conclude 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China, was the culmination of a streak of bad luck that has hounded the squad from the qualification rounds. And the one on the helm as head coach has put himself front and center by claiming full responsibility for their failure. Yeng Guiao had been called up to replace Chot Reyes who was slapped with a suspension, along with most of the Gilas team, following the 2018 bench-clearing brawl with Australia during qualification. And upon stepping down after the FIBA cup, he is shouldering all the blame.
CNN Philippines reports that Yeng Guiao has announced his resignation as head coach of the Gilas Pilipinas National Men’s Basketball Team, in the aftermath of their ill-fated participation in the FIBA World Cup late August to early September. This was made known via an official statement from Guiao released Wednesday, September 11, a day after Gilas returned to the country from China. The team ended up dead last in a field of 32 participants to the tournament, their worst ranking since the 1978 World Cup.
On his statement, Guiao expressed sharing the disappointed now felt by Filipinos everywhere for the bad turn experience by Gilas. Here he laid out his intent to be the scapegoat for the national team, which suffered understandable FIBA Basketball World Cup defeats from Italy, Serbia and Iran, a hard-fought loss against Angola, and a surprisingly painful humiliation against Tunisia, which has a lower FIBA world ranking. The first three teams however were powerhouses, particularly Iran which had frustrated the Filipinos before. The bad luck of getting bigger, faster, stronger and more cohesive national squads as opponents was simply too much for Gilas this time around.
Granted, the Gilas Pilipinas players that played under Yeng Guiao for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup were the same ones that were suspended for brawling with Team Australia during the qualifiers. During the period between then and the Cup in China, Guiao, who took over for Chot Reyes at the time, led a second-string roster (plus Jordan Clarkson) to the 2018 Asian Games and finished in 5th place, their best Asian Games basketball ranking since 2002. It seemingly affirmed Guiao as the best head coach to carry the torch to China. But when the suspended players were rotated back in, the team dynamic could not coalesce effectively on time.
For the sake of the players their head coach is thus shifting responsibility to himself even as he departs from Gilas. Guiao did thank the team, the PBA, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) and may others who have given him another opportunity to coach the national team, and is wishing them well in future, particularly the 2023 FIBA World Cup which the Philippines is co-hosting with Indonesia and Japan.
Image courtesy of ABS-CBN News