03:55 PM July 25, 2013

CHOT Reyes, head coach of Gilas Pilipinas, will be in distinguished company during the 27th FIBA Asia Championship from Aug. 1-11 at the Mall of Asia Arena, the main battleground, and the Ninoy Aquino Stadium, the secondary venue.


A multi-titled PBA mentor and a veteran national coach, Reyes will be swapping bench strategies with 14 of the most sought after international tacticians in the FIBA community, with two coming from Serbia, two from Greece, two from the States, one each from Italy and Slovenia, and the rest homegrown, including another Filipino coach.

An amalgam of coaching philosophies will be in full display for the whole world to see once the ceremonial ball goes up in the qualifying tournament to the 2014 FIBA World Cup, from the shake-and-bake American brand and the bruising, multiple screen European style of play to the unique torch-you-from-afar Asian method perfected by the South Koreans.


When Gilas Pilipinas opens its Group A preliminary round campaign against Saudi Arabia, calling the shots from the opposing bench is Serbian Nenad Krdzic, a 55-year-old veteran of the Gulf Championship and WABA skirmishes and a compatriot of former PHL coach Rajko Toroman.

Next up for the national team is Jordan and its Greek guru Vangelis Aleksandris, a 63-year-old former professional player and an experienced coach in a big number of club teams in Greece.

Gilas wraps up the first round against Chinese-Taipei and coach Hsu Chin-Tse, a rising 37-year-old tactician who led the Pure Youth team to the playoffs of the Super Basketball League, a prestigious tournament in Taiwan.

Should Gilas Pilipinas make it safely to the six-nation second round, the Nationals will be joined by Group B qualifiers Japan, Qatar and Hong Kong, all  three of which made it to the next phase of the preliminaries following the four-year FIBA suspension slapped on Lebanon just weeks before the tournament.

Japan will be handled by 52-year-old Kimikazu Suzuki, who returns to steer the team he handled during the 2006 Doha Asian Games and the 24th FIBA Asia Championship in Tokushima in 2007 where Japan finished 8th and the Philippines at 9th place.

American Tom Wisman, 63, who previously coached the national teams of England, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Japan, will be pulling the strings for Qatar, whlle Hong Kong has 53-year-old Kwong Wai Cheung.

Some teams the Philippines may not run into in the race to the match-up quarterfinals, like India (USA’s Scott Fleming), Malaysia (Filipino Paul Advincula), Bahrain (Serbian Sasa Nikitovic), and Thailand (Thai Manu Niyomy Indee), but the rest will have Reyes’ hands full.


A quarterfinal appearance could set the Nationals up for any of the following teams: Kazahstan (Italian Maetteo Boniciolli), South Korea (Yoo Jae-Hak), Iran (Slovenian Memi Becirovic), and defending champion China (Greek Panagiotis Giannakis).

Boniciolli’s club team Air Avellino won the Italian Cup in 2008 and he was recently named All-Kazakstan League Coach of the Year. Yoo, of the Ulsan Mobis squad, is the current champion in the Korean Basketball League, while Becirovic, among his many credentials, was a second round draft pick by the Denver Nuggets (46th overall) during the 2003 NBA Draft.

Giannakis, tasked to craft China’s overall defensive strategy, may be most impressive of all, having led the Greek national team to the gold medal in Eurobasket 2005 and a silver medal finish in the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan where Spain, starring eventual MVP Pau Gasol, routed them, 70-47, in the championship.

So it won’t be just the opposing 7-footers that Gilas Pilipinas will have to deal with; there too are the men who crack the whip to think about.

Yet top guns as these Asian coaches already are, the bigger howitzers, including a man named Mike Krzyzewski, are still out there. And it is in Spain during the World Championship next year where FIBA coaching royalty will gather and bask in greatness.

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