Why not exempt Tab?
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (Associated Press) - December 29, 2015 - 9:00am

The Basketball Coaches Association of the Philippines (BCAP) has registered its objection on the move to appoint Tab Baldwin as Ateneo senior men’s head coach in the UAAP next season. A law has been cited to affirm BCAP’s position against foreigners displacing locals in landing head coaching jobs.

But there are exceptions to the rule. Norman Black, Tim Cone and Alex Compton are Americans who are head coaches in the PBA. Their common denominators are they live in the country and are married to Filipinas. They’ve also served with the national team. However, they remain US passport-holders.

Baldwin, 57, is an American who relocated to New Zealand in 1988. He is now a dual US and New Zealand citizen. Baldwin has found a “third” home in the Philippines. He’s committed to live here up to 2019 when China hosts the FIBA World Cup. In fact, Baldwin has relocated his wife Efi, a Greek, and two of their seven children to settle in Manila. Baldwin’s involvement with the national team began at the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships so his commitment is more than just short-term.

Baldwin’s appointment to work with Ateneo is no surprise. When Ambassador Danding Cojuangco was the country’s basketball godfather, he also tapped national coach Ron Jacobs to call the shots for La Salle. At the time, the Archers were in limbo as they left the NCAA in 1980 and it wouldn’t be until 1986 that they were accepted into the UAAP. So Jacobs coached La Salle in leagues outside of the NCAA and UAAP. Ambassador Cojuangco is a La Salle alumnus and continues to support the Archers as their main benefactor.

With Ateneo alumnus Manny V. Pangilinan as SBP president, it was almost expected that somehow Baldwin would be involved with the Eagles in the same way that Jacobs was with La Salle. Nothing wrong with that. Ateneo ended its three-year relationship with head coach Bo Perasol this season and there couldn’t be a better choice as successor than Baldwin. It’s not certain if assistant coach Ronnie Magsanoc will remain with the Eagles staff next campaign but Sandy Arrespacochaga and Yuri Escueta should be back to help out Baldwin. As Ambassador Cojuangco is to La Salle, MVP is to Ateneo.

If the BCAP could make an exception in allowing Black, Cone and Compton to take head coaching positions, why not Baldwin, too? Surely, a national coach deserves better treatment. Besides, Baldwin’s presence in the UAAP won’t only be a boost for Ateneo but also a positive for other coaches because he’ll raise the bar of competition to benefit the league as a whole. His influence will be impactful in the bigger picture.

Before Baldwin joined the Gilas program, he was national coach of New Zealand, Malaysia, Lebanon and Jordan with outstanding results. He took New Zealand to the semifinals of the 2002 FIBA World Cup and guided the Tall Blacks at the 2004 Olympics and 2006 FIBA World Cup. Baldwin also brought Lebanon to the 2010 FIBA World Cup and Jordan to second place at the 2011 FIBA Asia Championships. In the US, Baldwin coached in the Division I and II collegiate levels. His coaching experience, to say the least, is extensive so what he’ll share with Ateneo and unravel in the UAAP should be a wealth of knowledge.

The Eagles have won 22 senior men’s basketball titles in history, 14 in the NCAA and eight in the UAAP. They captured five straight UAAP titles under Black and last season, took the No. 3 seeding and a twice-to-win disadvantage against eventual champion FEU in the semifinals. Ateneo nearly forced a rematch with the Tamaraws as the Eagles lost a 76-74 decision on Mac Belo’s last-gasp put-back in the semifinals.

Next season, Ateneo will lose Kiefer Ravena, Von Pessumal, Fonzo Gotladera and Gwynne Capacio who’ve completed their varsity eligibility. But the Eagles remain competitive with the likes of Mike and Matt Nieto, Adrian Wong, Aaron Black, Arvin Tolentino, Koko Pingoy, Hubert Cani and Nigerian center Chibueze Ikeh back in the lineup. Additionally, they’ll be reinforced by former San Sebastian superstar C. J. Perez, the comebacking Thirdy Ravena, Byron Almond and key contributors from a talented Team B pool with over 20 aspirants.

With Baldwin at the helm whether as consultant or head coach, Ateneo will be a serious title contender. The UAAP will also welcome Franz Pumaren as Adamson coach and Aldin Ayo as La Salle coach. The level of coaching will go up several notches with their arrival.

Rajko Toroman, Bill Bayno, Paul Woolpert, Ron Jacobs and Todd Purves were other foreign coaches who had PBA stints. BCAP blocked Jacobs’ appointment as national team coach in 1998 but had no objections when he was named to guide the squad for the 2002 Asian Games. Busan would’ve marked Jacobs’ “last hurrah” but he was struck down by a stroke on Dec. 23, 2001. Some of the foreign coaches escaped scrutiny from BCAP and were named head coaches. Others were labeled consultants but everyone knew they were de facto head coaches. So who’s fooling whom?

Baldwin has started practices with the Ateneo varsity. He’s also working with the Gilas pool in preparation for the Olympic qualifiers in July. If the Philippines makes it to the Rio Olympics in August, Baldwin will be preoccupied with the national team but should be back to attend to the Eagles when the UAAP season opens in September. Baldwin shouldn’t be treated any different from Black, Cone and Compton because of his commitment to the country. Calling him a consultant for Ateneo is an injustice.

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