Chot and Gilas: We’re all in this together

Basketball coach Chot Reyes, in hot water these days for reasons only avid fans know, can probably take consolation from a man who found time to watch Gilas Pilipinas’ game against Saudi Arabia Monday night.

The beleaguered coach, social media’s favorite whipping boy for a series of unfortunate losses by the national team in recent international games, was widely booed during the pre-game introductions and jeered every time his face appeared on the giant coliseum screens. He was also heckled by fans whenever he complained to the referees and challenged officiating.

Hobbled by a listless start, Gilas Pilipinas, however, turned things around in the second quarter on the way to a hapless rout of the Arabs, which the fans lapped up as jeers turned to cheers.

Among those who savored the victory from the stands was no less than President Bongbong Marcos, who even gave a standing ovation beside iconic businessman Manny Pangilinan, considered the godfather of the Gilas program.

From pariah to the president, the son and namesake of the late Ferdinand Marcos Sr. has successfully reached the end of a decades-long campaign to rehabilitate the family brand following his landslide victory in the last national elections.

More than three decades ago, nobody wanted to have anything to do with the Marcoses who left in a huff from Malacañang following the 1986 People Power uprising that ended the 20-year rule of his father.

The Marcoses then rebuilt their political fortunes. Following his successful presidential run, Marcos Jr. said he was humbled by his success at the ballot box and vowed to “always strive for perfection.”

“I want to do well because when a president does well, the country does well and I want to do well for this country,” he said.

Like the Marcoses then, Chot Reyes is now considered the most hated man in Philippine basketball, becoming immensely unpopular in recent months as the national team struggled at the international level. Criticism of the multi-titled coach hit a fever pitch when the Philippines failed to defend its gold medal in the 31st Southeast Asian Games last May.

We can’t blame a nation so passionate about their national pastime to blame Reyes. After all, he is the man in charge of fulfilling the dreams of millions of basketball-crazy Filipinos. And surely, he has learned to live with the bashing. It comes with the territory, so to speak.

He has nothing more to prove though. He has won several Philippine basketball titles and has piloted Gilas to a memorable showing in the 2014 World Cup in Barcelona where his wards stood shoulder to shoulder with the best basketball nations in the world. The year before, he slayed the ghost of the Korean curse with a silver medal finish in the Asian Games.

Bongbong Marcos during the campaign chose to ignore the bashers, avoided direct engagement with critics, and just went about informing the public of his program and vision for the country once elected.

Chot could probably take a cue from there. He has repeatedly said that he pays no attention to what is said about him on social media, focusing instead on the task at hand. After all, he is there to answer the call of flag and country.

He didn’t ask for the job in the first place. It fell on his lap when nobody wanted to. Besides, his players have their back in his shot at redemption. No less than Jordan Clarkson has indicated he wants none of the negativity heaped on their coach. Even Dwight Ramos appealed to Filipinos that if they want to support Gilas, they will have to support them all the way, including their coach.

Such is the maelstrom Chot and his Gilas team are facing in the run-up to next year’s FIBA World Cup, which the Philippines is co-hosting with Indonesia and Japan.

Clarkson and Ramos are probably right. We can’t afford to foster negativity as we attend to the double task of hosting a monumental cage meet and faring creditably in it.

There’s no time for crab mentality here.

We’re in all these together.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *