Gilas Pilipinas scored a win finally at the expense of China via a 96-75 rout on their fifth and final outing in the FIBA World Cup Saturday night but it seems that for coach Chot Reyes (left) there is nothing much to cheer about. Gilas dropped its first four games in the world’s biggest basketball tourney, missing punching an outright slot for the 2024 Olympics in France.     

MANILA — Chot Reyes made the decision to step down as the head coach of Gilas Pilipinas immediately after the team’s victorious conclusion to their 2023 FIBA World Cup journey against China.

“Clearly, our performance fell short. We didn’t meet expectations, and as I mentioned in our last game, I take full responsibility for that. Therefore, I believe it’s time for me to step aside,” Reyes expressed during the postgame press conference following Gilas’ impressive 96-75 victory over China on Saturday night.

“I prefer not to use the term ‘resign’ because I’m not one to quit. I’m not a quitter. I want to emphasize that to everyone who may wonder. However, I took on this role with the understanding that I needed to deliver results, and I did not achieve that. So, I think it’s best for me to step down and allow the SBP (Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas) to make decisions that benefit the team and the program.”

In front of an audience of 11,080 dedicated fans who braved heavy rain to support Gilas in their final classification round match at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, the Filipino team exhibited remarkable energy, fueled by the scorching shooting of their naturalized player, Jordan Clarkson.

As the final buzzer sounded, Gilas concluded a rollercoaster FIBA World Cup journey with a victory, which came after four heartbreaking losses during the tournament that cost the Philippines an automatic spot in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Reyes clarified that he had not received any communication from SBP since the team was officially eliminated from Olympic contention following a disappointing 87-68 loss to South Sudan in the classification round on Thursday night.

“No, I haven’t heard from the management. This is my decision. As everyone knows, I didn’t seek this job; I didn’t volunteer for it. I was entrusted with this responsibility. I had already retired from coaching the national team, and throughout this time, I’ve consistently said that we should be judged based on our performance in the World Cup, regardless of what occurred between my appointment and today. I’ve always maintained that we should be evaluated on our performance,” explained Reyes, who played a pivotal role in bringing the Philippines back to the global stage for the first time since hosting the tournament in 1978.

Reyes was credited with guiding the Philippines back to the world stage when they defeated long-standing rivals South Korea during the 2013 FIBA Asia Men’s Championship in Manila, earning a ticket to the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Seville, Spain.

During that tournament, the Philippines, bolstered by naturalized big man and former Brooklyn Nets player Andray Blatche, pushed world-class opponents like Croatia, Argentina, Greece, and Puerto Rico to the brink of defeat, with narrow losses.

Gilas ended the tournament on a high note with an 81-79 overtime victory over Senegal, marking a significant achievement for the country on the global stage, the best since their 2-5 record in the 1974 FIBA World Cup in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (ai/mnm)