Tab is what he is
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - June 16, 2020 - 12:00am

What you see is what you get. SBP Gilas director, Ateneo head coach and TNT coaching consultant Tab Baldwin is no hypocrite. He says what’s on his mind and doesn’t mince words. That’s how he is.

Does he think highly of himself? No doubt about it. Baldwin has the credentials to back up his self-confidence. He took New Zealand to the 2002 FIBA World Cup semifinals and the fourth place finish made him a national hero. Baldwin was head coach in three FIBA World Cups and the 2004 Olympics. He has coached the national teams of Malaysia, Lebanon, Jordan, New Zealand and the Philippines. His basketball career has brought him to coach in Turkey, Greece and Romania, too. As far as experience is concerned, Baldwin has it. At 62, he’s logged enough basketball mileage to leave an enduring legacy in the sport.

Because of his basketball knowledge, does he think lowly of Filipino coaches? Apparently. Based on his recent comments, it’s safe to assume that Baldwin believes he is the best basketball mind in the country. He rued the “tactical immaturity” of Philippine basketball coaches but said it’s “correctable.” The sweeping statement has raised a howl from BCAP and several Filipino coaches. He also criticized the PBA for what he perceives to be flaws in how it does things from officiating to competition format. That, too, has raised a howl and PBA commissioner Willie Marcial is within his rights to impose a penalty on Baldwin. In the NBA, coaches and even owners are fined for comments that the commissioner views to be detrimental to the league. Phil Jackson was slapped eight fines and paid close to $400,000. Over 50 fines have been assessed by the NBA on coaches for detrimental comments with every penny going to charity. Baldwin was set to meet with Marcial by video call yesterday afternoon, presumably to mend fences.

Is Baldwin naturally arrogant? This is better answered by the players and coaches he’s worked with. But if he’s to stay longer in the country and feel the love of the Filipino people, he has to be more endearing. He can’t be considered an “Ugly American.” He has to be a role model for everyone in the game to look up to. Before a UAAP game once, Baldwin did something unusual in planting himself at the midcourt line, eyeballing Ateneo’s opponent La Salle warming up, like a vulture about to devour its prey, not minding his own team. This act of defiance or intimidation touched a nerve among Filipino fans, regardless of affiliation. Has Baldwin ever done this in a league outside of the Philippines? Will he ever do this in a FIBA competition?

Baldwin has been involved with Philippine basketball since 2013. After seven years, has he learned how to co-exist with Filipinos? There must be a reason why Baldwin has moved from one country to another since transplanting from the US to New Zealand in 1988. Maybe, it’s because his upbringing makes him uncomfortable adapting to foreign ways. Maybe, it’s because for him, basketball is a business, pure and simple. He’ll go where the money is and because of his credentials, there will always be a demand for someone of his expertise.

Baldwin coached the Philippines at the 2015 FIBA Asia Cup in Changsha and the 2016 Olympic Qualifiers. He’s now the SBP Gilas director and by his choice, not in line to coach the national team. Is Baldwin loyal to the Philippines? Is that beside the point? If basketball is strictly a business with Baldwin, loyalty doesn’t figure in his equation. Last year, there was talk that he was offered big bucks to coach a Middle East national team but he was persuaded to stay. Was it because he loved the Philippines more?

Baldwin’s an accomplished coach with a mind of his own. He’s no Ron Jacobs who lived in the Philippines because he loved the country and the Filipino people. But if Baldwin is the kind of leader the SBP needs to move the national basketball program forward, then let’s accept him for what he is.

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