The legacy of Chot Reyes in Philippine basketball

September 14, 2018 - 4:15 PM
Chot Reyes led the Philippine national basketball team to success after years of struggle. (Photo from FIBA website)

Chot Reyes is stepping down as head coach of the national basketball team and fans and players are hailing him for spearheading the Philippines’ return to success at international basketball.

In a recent interview with ESPN5, Reyes revealed his decision to step down as mentor of the Gilas Pilipinas national team.

He admitted that the penalties handed down by the FIBA in relation to the brawl that broke out between the Philippines and Australia in their qualification match in July 2018 affected his decision.

“The FIBA decision came out and there was a suspension, which up to now I think is very unfair, but the Federation decided not to appeal anymore, so I support their decision not to appeal,” explained Reyes, who was handed down a fine and a one-game suspension from FIBA competitions.

Reyes in a later statement confirmed that he would be stepping down as coach to “contribute in a different capacity” and wished good luck to the new Gilas coaching staff led by Yeng Guiao.

The five-time PBA Coach of the Year winner said that he hopes his time with the national team gave the country’s once-floundering program a “fighting mindset.”

“I think in the end, I’m fortunate and it’s something I can be proud of in building that culture,” Reyes said while discussing the “Puso” battle cry that became popular during his time as Gilas coach.

Players and fans alike gave thanks following his announcement.

An eight-time PBA champion, Reyes led the national team to a string of victories in various international tournaments in the mid-2000s.

He was assigned to lead the squad once more in 2012 following the program’s rebranding as the Gilas Pilipinas team.

The national team in the years prior struggled to find success at the international level. Its lone appearance in the podium level of the FIBA Asia championship from 1989 to 2011 was a fourth-place finish in 2011.

Reyes led the Philippines in its most successful Asian campaign in 2013, finishing second in the FIBA Asia Championship in Manila, its best finish since placing first in 1985.

The campaign gave the Philippines its first ticket to the highest stage in international basketball, the FIBA World Cup in 2014, after more than three fruitless decades.

Gilas however failed to make it past the group stage and left the competition with one win against four losses. Reyes was removed as head coach after the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas announced the creation of a new national team pool.

Reyes was commended for leading the Philippines in a tough contest against perennial world title contender Argentina. The Philippines however failed to complete the upset and lost 81-85.

He was called up to lead the team once more in 2016 and steered its recent drive for a return to the basketball World Cup until the controversial July 2018 brawl with Australia.