THE fourth window of the FIBA Asia Qualifiers has ended, specifically the game against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. You might as well call it the ceremonial Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) vindication game, complete with a supposedly important audience.
A win is a win, and our players gave their best. Jordan Clarkson was spectacular, and after a slow start, they won by a whopping 38 points. Victory lap by SBP with their esteemed guest, and while the SBP has let talented prospects walk away, they would definitely not miss an opportunity to gain some public relations points.
With Clarkson, Kai Sotto, and even Dwight Ramos speaking out about their aversion to the fans booing Gilas coach Chot Reyes, and appealing to support the whole team, Reyes is now projected as a hero after stating that he would take the boos and slurs, as long as fans keep supporting the players.
Missing the point
Those are the facts, and now it's time to dig deeper at the motivations behind those boos. First of all, fans are not angry at Reyes, the person. Reyes did his service, he is a champion coach many times over. The fans are angry at SBP's continued preference of Reyes.
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There is a false dichotomy that the boos are about Chot versus Tab Baldwin. Yes, fans are angry at Baldwin's departure, but even after accepting that, the fans are angry at how SBP is insisting on Reyes, even when he is coaching TNT KaTropa, and clearly, his focus on Gilas is not 100 percent, no matter how many press releases are published.
Side note: I'm a huge fan of Marc Pingris, the player and the person, but his statement that even Baldwin would not perform given the limited preparation time is the epitome of how much the point is totally missed.
The point is that SBP totally did not make an effort to lay the groundwork for this window. We had this whole "we don't need to win" slip of the tongue, and the sudden scramble to bring in Clarkson. Those are contrasting moves, and it was evident that SBP did not have a plan in place.
The process behind choosing Reyes, the publicized refusal to accept his resignation and the haste in letting go of Nenad Vucinic revealed that SBP wanted him all along. His son coaching the U18 team also didn't help. It's acceptable to be loyal to a brand if it's actually effective. But the defeats to both Lebanon teams days apart portrays the contrary.
The fans want the best Gilas team, and that involves the coaching staff and management. Yes, the Pinoy hoops fans are mature, and they understand what it takes to win. The SBP's insistence on the "hugot system" with the PBA, and their loyalty to Reyes when there are other coaches available, are the root cause of the boos at the MOA Arena.
Are fans being disloyal?
So fans have a point, but should they boo? Is that not a betrayal of the national team? The right question to ask here is "why?"
I've previously noted the Boston Celtics fans for their constant critique of their own team. That's not because they are disloyal, but it's because they care. They are involved and invested in the team precisely because they are passionately loyal. I cheered for the Lakers even when Sedale Threatt was their top scorer. I criticized the Russell Westbrook trade, and I would've booed the Lakers seeing their lack of effort in some of their games the past season. I'd boo them because they didn't seem to care.
And the SBP doesn't seem to care at all. That was the point. Fans can see through their ruse, even if they brought in Clarkson and Sotto. Reyes was their willing fall guy, complete with the "pa-victim" effect. But what the fans want, a long-term program, unbound to a professional league with its own business interests, remains unheeded by deaf ears.
Perhaps the deafening boos will shake them into action. If not, brace yourselves for another 32nd place finish.