Continuity key to Gilas program, says Cone

MANILA, Philippines — Barangay Ginebra head coach Tim Cone said the other day that continuity is the most important key to the Gilas program and overhauling the national team in the wake of FIBA’s sanctions on 10 players stemming from the recent brawl with Australia isn’t the solution to the problem.

“What’s made us competitive in international basketball is our continuity,” said Cone. “Same system, same coach. Retaining the core has given us chemistry. Players know where everyone is on the court so that they can make a pass to a spot even without looking. Before, we struggled with the pick-up system. Now, with coach Chot (Reyes), we’ve got a solid pool of players.”

With 10 players suspended from one to six games, Gilas will need to reassemble a pool of replacements for Japeth Aguilar and Matthew Wright (one game), Terrence Romeo, Jayson Castro, Andray Blatche and Troy Rosario (three games), R. R. Pogoy, Carl Bryan Cruz and Jio Jalalon (five games) and Calvin Abueva (six games). Additionally, Reyes was given a one-game suspension plus a fine of the equivalent of P535,000 and assistant coach Jong Uichico, three.

“I’m not sure you need to remake the whole team because of one or three game suspensions,” said Cone. “As for Chot, the sanction might have been a little unfair but I’m sure that Chot will agree that we, as head coaches, are always ultimately responsible for the actions of our teams. That just comes with the job. He’ll take the hit and move on. Those things happen.”

Cone said he agreed with SBP president Al Panlilio that the FIBA sanctions could have been worse. “I don’t think the sanctions are anything the SBP and the PBA can’t overcome,” he said. Regarding the possible drafting of Ginebra players Scottie Thompson, L. A. Tenorio and Greg Slaughter for Gilas, Cone said “that’s beyond my paycheck.” He added, “that will be decided by the players’ respective managements.”

Thompson played on the national team under coach Tab Baldwin in 2015 when the Philippines won the gold medal at the SEA Games and the SEABA Championships. His teammates included Kiefer Ravena, Rosario, Baser Amer, Kevin Ferrer, Mac Belo and Marcus Douthit. Slaughter saw action under coach Norman Black in 2011 when the Philippines won the gold medal at the SEA Games and the SEABA Championships. Tenorio was the MVP when the Philippines won the 2012 Jones Cup title, played on the silver medal team at the 2013 FIBA Asia Cup and was on the Gilas lineup at the 2014 FIBA World Cup, all under Reyes.

Thompson could be a replacement for Pogoy, Tenorio for Castro and Slaughter for Aguilar. The PBA has given no restrictions for Gilas to pick players from any roster but commissioner Willie Marcial said it will be up to the players themselves to decide whether or not to join.

Aguilar, Wright and Reyes will be reinstated after the Philippines plays Iran in an “away” game on Sept. 13 to start the fourth window of the FIBA Asia/Pacific qualifiers for the 2019 FIBA World Cup. That means they’ll be back with Gilas when the Philippines hosts Qatar on Sept. 17 in a closed-door game not open to the public.