“Judge me in the world cup”

“Learning experience”

“Italy is Italy.”

“I could not turn my back to the call of service for [the] flag and country.”

“I didn’t apply for this job. I didn’t volunteer; I was given this mandate.”

“There are so many powerful teams that didn’t advance.”

These are just some of the lines that have made Chot Reyes a hot topic throughout Gilas Pilipinas’ journey before, during, and after the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

It’s hard not to blame Filipinos (yes, this goes beyond the basketball community) for having a bone to pick with Reyes. After all, in 10 FIBA World Cup games, Reyes has only won twice, with both wins separated by a gap of nine years.

In fact, he’s become a prime example of “If you can’t perform, japorm”.

As the man tasked with leading the national team of the country’s undisputed favorite sport, results were expected from Reyes, who to his credit, helped break the Korea curse and led the Philippines back to the FIBA World Cup after 36 years.

After that, though, there hasn’t been any material progress since then. Making the World Cup was a goal back in 2013, but once that was achieved, Gilas failed to make much headway since then. Looking for silver linings became a habit, so much so that our standards for success stooped to new lows.

The clamor from Filipinos boiled down to one thing: we can do so much better with the resources poured into basketball. In fact, not only did other countries move ahead of us basketball-wise, but we have also made much more progress in other sports as well.

Reyes has this tendency to move the goalposts when it comes to his objectives with Gilas Pilipinas. For much of the last five or so years, Reyes was fixated on assembling the best team possible for the 2023 FIBA World Cup. What started with the 23 for 23 list ended up as an iteration of PBA players and later on a pool mixed with professionals and amateurs. Reyes stepped aside to let Tab Baldwin take over the program and then he returned again, conveniently I might add, to supposedly coach the Philippines in the 2019 FIBA World Cup. That is, until the Gilas brawl with Australia that saw him suspended for one game. As a result, Yeng Guiao would go on to coach Gilas Pilipinas to a winless campaign in China. While Baldwin would once again make a return and produce solid results with a young group of players, Reyes made another return at coaching the Philippines with a squad made up mostly of PBA players. 

As preparations for the 2023 FIBA World Cup went underway, he had been preaching on making a dent in the tournament and who could blame him? He led the Philippines to the 2023 SEA Games gold medal in 5×5 basketball after losing it to Indonesia in the previous edition and despite losing to Cambodia in the group stage. But just before the World Cup tipped off, Reyes suddenly shifted his goal to the 2024 Olympics, which to his credit, Gilas can still qualify for.

Once the losses piled on in the 2023 FIBA World Cup, Reyes’ usual excuses came up faster than the tournament’s conclusion. You don’t have to go far to search for his reasons, which include reportedly having a complete lineup a week before the tournament when he had 90 percent of his players even before that. He has also cited injuries to various players in the past, when he had made previous statements of playing with the cards he was dealt with.  

It’s unfortunate since even when Reyes says the right things, no one really believes him. Following the loss to FIBA World Cup debutant South Sudan, Reyes harped on how he was taking full accountability and responsibility. While some may say that he was manning up, it seems like at this point, that’s the bare minimum. Someone even wrote that it’s not Reyes’ fault that the rest of the world caught up basketball-wise. But isn’t it partly his fault that his squads did not consistently keep up with the times?

A scroll through the comments section on posts related to Gilas Pilipinas more often than not revealed calls for Reyes’ head, with some unfortunately going below the belt. Taking a page out of Reyes’ book, it is only right that we judge in the World Cup and in all things basketball. It’s best not to include his family, even if his son is an assistant in the national team.

Of course, there will be some blame passed on to the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) and rightly so. But at least the SBP can take credit for what has been a generally solid hosting of the 2023 FIBA World Cup. Reyes, though, only has a win to show for it.

In the press conference following the Philippines’ win over China, Reyes announced that he was stepping down. Then again, didn’t we hear this already before? It remains to be seen if this will last long.

That he belabored on not being a quitter speaks to his penchant for creating drama when simply stepping aside was all everyone asked for. With his stepping down, no one would have called him a quitter since he already wore out his welcome with the national team. Besides, it was funny that he mentioned leaving things up to the SBP only to quit after earning the win over China.

Chot Reyes has united Philippine basketball fans in such a way that you’d think he belongs in politics. His vice-like grip on the national team head coaching job and the mixed results have earned him the distinction of having the longest leash in all of sports.

All things considered, the Filipinos want wins, not apologies or excuses. Chot Reyes has brought a couple of wins, given apologies that seem half-hearted, and dug deep into his bag of excuses after going 1-4 in the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

He seems to have stepped down for good, but given what has gone on in the past, can we really take his word for it?