Sports

Yeng Guiao Steps Down as Gilas Pilipinas Coach

Barely a day after the national team's arrival from a Fiba World Cup campaign.
IMAGE FIBA
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Yeng Guiao has stepped down as head coach of Gilas Pilipinas, barely a day after the national team's arrival from a Fiba World Cup campaign that saw it lose all five games, most of them in lopsided fashion.

Guiao, 60, apologized for the 32nd-place finish in the global showpiece but at the same time absolved the players from blame, saying they "gave their best against talented, bigger, stronger, and better-prepared athletes from the best teams in the world."

"I knew what conditions existed, what the limitations were, and still, I accepted the challenge. I hold myself responsible for the consequences," he said in a statement he sent to the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) on Wednesday, a copy of which was obtained by SPIN.ph.

The multi-titled coach said he was stepping down to give the SBP "a free hand in building and developing a program towards achieving our objective of competing with the best of the best."

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Photo by Jerome Ascano.

On the day the whole team arrived from Beijing, Guiao met with SBP president Al Panlilio, vice-chairman Ricky Vargas and chairman emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan where the coach said he 'initiated something.'

It turned out to be his resignation.

Asked about it later, Guiao said the group discussed the World Cup campaign and he had the chance to make 'recommendations' on how best to move the national team program forward, based on what Gilas learned in the China letdown.

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"We discussed something for the longterm," Guiao said.

At the same time, Guiao put his second stint as national coach - the first one was during the 2009 Fiba Asia Championship in Tianjin, China - in perspective, saying he took over at a 'point of crisis' to put the Gilas program back on track in the wake of the July 2018 brawl against Australia.

With the Philippines saddled by suspensions to coaches and top players, Guiao, a consensus choice of the SBP and PBA to replace Chot Reyes, put together a team built around the core of the Rain or Shine squad which he led to a fifth-place finish in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.

Photo by Jerome Ascano.
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Given the national coaching job permanently after that, he and Gilas overcame a rough patch by sweeping two games against Qatar and Kazakhstan in the final window of the qualifiers to punch a ticket to the World Cup, which, regardless of the results, Guiao considers the "highlight of my coaching career."

"It is in this context that I view my year of leading this program in a positive light," said the seven-time champion coach in the PBA.

Here's his statement in full:

As regards the past performance of the GILAS PILIPINAS MEN’S BASKETBALL TEAM in the recent World Cup, I am as disappointed as the rest of the country.

I truly and fully appreciate the efforts and sacrifices of all the players; not just those of the recent FIBA World Cup Team, but of all those who have contributed to the program since my appointment as head coach for the 2018 Asian Games.

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I would also like to extend my personal thanks to the coaching staff, trainers, utilities and the management of the Gilas Team for their hard work, support, and cooperation.

I’d like to express special gratitude to the PBA Team Owners and Board of Governors led by Chairman Ricky Vargas and Commissioner Willy Marcial; special mention to Boss Ramon Ang and my friend, Al Chua, as well, for the moral and material support they have extended to our team.

My deep gratitude to Boss Raymund Yu and Boss Terry Que, for keeping their trust in me and endorsing me to coach the Rain or Shine core team in the 2018 Asian Games, which led to my appointment as Head Coach of the Gilas Team.

Special thanks to Boss Rod Franco, NLEX Management, and the whole team for their understanding and support as I served my country in my capacity as Head Coach of the Gilas Team, thereby diluting my focus and attention from my duties to them. I am now back home in NLEX to fully focus on winning our first championship.

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Above all, I am most thankful to SBP Chairman Manny V. Pangilinan and SBP President Al Panlilio for the opportunity to have been of service to the country in the sport I love most.

To all fans and friends who wished us well, supported us, and offered their prayers, I am grateful from the bottom of my heart.

I am truly blessed to have coached the best that Philippine Basketball has to offer and to have competed amongst the best in the world. I consider the past year, most especially our participation in the World Cup, as the highlight of my career.

Even if I had known from the beginning that this would be the end result of my decision to accept this coaching job, I would have had no second thoughts in making the same decision. I have no regrets in having taken the path I have taken in the past year; the only regret is that I would have wanted the team to have performed better on the world stage.

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I take pride in having taken over the Gilas Program at a point of crisis, where the team was decimated by the suspension of players and coaches after the Australian incident. From there we put together the team and the program with the support of the SBP, the PBA, and our basketball public, to take 5th place in the Asian Games – our best finish in the last 16 years – with an opportunity to make the finals, except for a loss to China which was decided with one possession. With the help of Filipino-American NBA player Jordan Clarkson, we almost achieved the improbable.

After some struggles and adjustments through three qualifying windows for the FIBA World Cup, we were able to qualify for our second straight World Cup appearance. This was my only promise to our basketball officials and public – that if we were not able to achieve this, I would gladly step down as head coach of the GILAS Program.

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After all the hard work and struggles, the stars aligned for us and the Philippines made it to the top 32 elite teams in the world – and this, only a year after the team was almost decimated by suspensions.

It is in this context that I view my year of leading this program in a positive light.

The efforts and sacrifices of all those involved, overcoming the many trials and tribulations, putting ourselves on the world stage of basketball – I can only wish we could have performed better these past two weeks, but the odds were stacked against us.

Nonetheless, I take full responsibility.

I knew what conditions existed, what the limitations were, and still, I accepted the challenge. I hold myself responsible for the consequences.

I am sorry we could not deliver a better performance. Our players gave their best against talented, bigger, stronger, and better prepared athletes from the best teams in the world. I truly appreciate their efforts and sacrifices – and that of their families. Our times together will never be erased from my memory.

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In light of all these developments, I am stepping down, as of today, as the Head Coach of the Gilas Men’s Basketball Team, in order to give the SBP a free hand in building and developing a program towards achieving our objective of competing with the best of the best.

I am truly grateful for the opportunity to serve our country through the sport we love most.

Para sa bayan

This story originally appeared on Spin.phMinor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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