Thanking Tab Baldwin

THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco - The Philippine Star

“There is nothing so powerful as truth – and often nothing so strange.” – Daniel Webster

Nobody seems to be saying it, so I’ll do it. Thanks, Coach Tab Baldwin. Thank you for elevating the game, and the play of the Philippine men’s basketball team. Thank you for showing us other ways of winning.

Baldwin is currently in bubble training with his beloved Ateneo Blue Eagles, and the team will remain cloistered for about two more weeks. It was announced earlier in the week that he would be stepping down as Gilas Pilipinas head coach, in lieu of the returning Chot Reyes. Whatever the reason, it is done.

Baldwin has always had a different, broader perspective on basketball. Earlier on in his stay in the country, he was asked what he found confusing and exasperating about Philippine basketball in the course of an interview. His answer riled up other coaches and who considered it an affront to their competence. He simply answered a question, no malice intended. But many parochial minds decided to take offense, as is the culture in social media nowadays. But sometimes, we need a fresh set of eyes, an outsider’s point of view.

Contrary to the prevailing American style of play, Baldwin has always advocated a more team-oriented, involved approach to the game. Of course, many entrenched older coaches scoffed, even when the Americans themselves were losing in international competition. When you think about it, it’s a no-win situation for NBA players. If they win, it’s expected. If they don’t, they lose face and luster. Still, many coaches are stuck and don’t want to reinvent themselves. But many younger coaches do. For them, Baldwin created annual camps with European coaches, who could more deeply detail their systems and programs. As this writer has noted, the NBA itself has chosen not to study European style, but instead just keeps importing more European players, which is not the same thing.

Another of Baldwin’s remarkable accomplishments is what he has done for the Blue Eagles, both in and out of the UAAP. Taking a college team to the Jones Cup, and coming within a whiff of a podium finish is an underrated achievement. If you factor in the two close losses, things could have been very different. Baldwin’s teams overachieve, surprise opponents, and rarely ever get the score run up on them. To a man, his players would run through a brick wall for their coach, and gladly. Their upside is greater than it would have been under most other coaches. Baldwin is bent on molding better people, who turn out to be better basketball players.

So let it not be said that we are not grateful for his contributions to our favorite sport. Whatever the future brings, we thank Baldwin for giving of himself to make our players better, in and out of the playing court.


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