Putting Tab Baldwin as head coach of the national youth men’s basketball team is the right thing to do.
That’s one way of streamlining the Philippine squad’s program, one that could smoothen the transition of preparing the youth squad and integrating them to the men’s team.
While Yeng Guiao is feeling his way back as head mentor of Gilas Pilipinas national squad, the top officials of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas are now preparing and streamlining the program that would link the youth and the men’s squad.
In a subtle way, Guiao had already started that integration by including young talents like Kai Sotto and Ricci Rivero in the program.
Sotto is the only high school player to become part of the national men’s training team and given the chance to compete against some of the best big men in the PBA – June Mar Fajardo, Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar among others — the sky is the limit for the 7-foot-1, 16-year-old center.
Rivero, on he other hand, is a talented two guard who was put on red shirt while waiting for the opportunity to play for the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons next season. But he had already been included in the national men’s team program by Guiao as early as August while the PBA-backed squad was preparing for the Asian Games.
The integration has just started and it would only be a matter of time for Sotto and Rivero to crack the men’s line up in future tournaments.
Now here comes Baldwin, fresh from steering the Ateneo Blue Eagles to back-to-back championships.
Over the last three years, the American-Kiwi, who had a brief stint handling Gilas Pilipinas and leading the team all the way to the gold medal game in the 2015 FIBA Asia Cup, had since then been involved handling the young men’s program of Ateneo.
That two title runs were testament enough that Baldwin deserves another call up to oversee the youth program of the national team. Now you have Guiao for the men’s squad and Baldwin for the young men’s team, if ever the latter pushes thru.
“Nothing is concrete yet as no one has approached me from the SBP regarding that idea, but if ever that happens, it would be an honor to be back in the national team program. We’ll see,” Baldwin says.
Baldwin is no stranger handling the youth team, having coached the under-20 team of New Zealand nearly two decades ago.
For Baldwin, coaching the men’s national team and the youth squad presents two different challenges.
“With the men’s team, especially now that some of them are already playing in the pros, the challenge is how can you make these players believe on what you want to achieve,” he added. “With the young men’s team, it entails a lot of teaching and for me, that’s the most challenging part.”
The SBP has just started streamlining the program and it won’t be surprising to see Guiao and Baldwin exchanging ideas in the future.
Rey Joble is a member of the PBA Press Corps and Philippine Sportswriters Association.