Vucinic quits Gilas

Gilas Pilipinas’ preparation suffered a major blow as Nenad Vucinic stepped down as assistant coach weeks before the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director Sonny Barrios made the confirmation to Daily Tribune, saying that the Kiwi-Serbian mentor will no longer be part of Gilas in its bid to regain redemption in the international stage.

Sideliners strongly believe that Vucinic’s decision has something to do with the resignation of his good friend, Tab Baldwin, as program director and head coach of the national squad.

Baldwin, the noted Kiwi-American mentor, made a controversial exit in February following the departure of Gilas standouts to Japan and the Philippine Basketball Association during the height of the pandemic last year.

With the team in chaos, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas asked Chot Reyes to handle Gilas Pilipinas anew, leading to a string of heartaches in the second window of the Asian Qualifiers, FIBA Asia Cup and the 31st Southeast Asian Games.

Vucinic was the only remaining piece from the Baldwin era as he was tasked to serve as consultant before being allowed to handle Gilas in the third Asian Qualifiers as well as in a pair of exhibition matches against South Korea last month.

Now that Baldwin is gone, insiders were no longer surprised that Vucinic followed suit as his role in the Gilas program had been greatly reduced.

Barrios said the 57-year-old mentor did not resign, but only decided not to renew his contract, which is only until 31 August, so he can look for opportunities outside the team, and probably, outside the country.

“Nenad’s contract had already expired and he decided not to renew. Instead, he would take on other opportunities,” said Barrios, also the federation’s appointed spokesperson.

With Vucinic, the former head coach of the New Zealand men’s basketball team, out, Reyes will no longer have the luxury of getting inputs from a seasoned international campaigner.

Instead, he will have a bench composed of assistant coaches Tim Cone, Jong Uichico and his son, Josh, when Gilas take on Lebanon in Beirut on 25 August and Saudi Arabia in Pasay City on 29 August.

“Not at the moment. At least for this window, we have what we got,” Barrios said when asked about the possibility of replacing Vucinic.

“Coach Chot has a solid coaching staff, actually.”

Aside from Gilas, Vucinic also made his way out of Meralco and San Beda University.

His last assignment for the Bolts was last Wednesday when they suffered an 89-100 loss to San Miguel Beer in Game 7 of their Philippine Basketball Association best-of-seven semifinal series.

He also failed to provide significant inputs to newly-designed San Beda mentor Yuri Escueta, who will make his head coaching debut when the National Collegiate Athletic Association Season 97 unwraps this September.

In a previous interview, Reyes stressed the possibility of hiring two to three European coaches to boost their bench strength heading into the FIBA World Cup that the country will host next year.

“We’ve been talking constantly. I have a roster of two or three other European coaches,” Reyes said.

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