Chot Reyes, the coach for TNT, sees his absence for the next two games of the Philippine Basketball Association Philippine Cup Finals as a test for his players and his staff.
Since Reyes has to focus on Gilas Pilipinas, he can’t coach Tropang Giga, the defending champions, who excitingly won the first game on Sunday. The other Tropang Giga coaches hope they can do the job for Games 2 and 3.
“They’ll have to take the sticks, and we’ll see how well I’ve prepared them,” Reyes said after TNT beat San Miguel Beer 86-84 at Smart Araneta Coliseum last Sunday, thanks to Jayson Castro’s shot at the buzzer.
Reyes will lead Gilas Pilipinas in the fourth window of the International Basketball Association (FIBA) World Cup Asian Qualifiers. The team’s first game is on the road against Lebanon in Beirut early Friday morning (Manila time).
At press time, the Philippines, led by Utah Jazz star Jordan Clarkson, were getting ready to leave Manila.
Before the series started, the Tropang Giga staff was already short-handed. Josh Reyes, the son of the head coach, was in Iran helping Gilas Pilipinas Youth in the Fiba U-18 Asian Championship.
Reyes’s assistants Sandy Arespacochaga, Yuri Escueta, Ranidel de Ocampo, Bong Ravena, Mau Belen, and even team manager Jojo Lastimosa are now in charge of the team.
The older Reyes said, “I work hard to train my coaching staff so they can take over in situations like this.” He also said he would still check TNT while in Beirut.
Game 2 at the Big Dome and Game 3 at the MOA
On Wednesday, Game 2 will be at the Big Dome. Game 3 will be at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena on Friday.
“It says a lot about how good of a coach I am that my team can do well even without me. and that makes me very happy,” Reyes said.
“That’s what I’m looking forward to. If the team can keep performing well even without me, I’ve done my job and coached these guys well.”
Reyes will probably be at Game 4 on Sunday at Araneta before leading Gilas against Saudi Arabia the next day at MOA.
The Tropang Giga won the best-of-seven match when Castro made a jumper that just beat the clock. It put them ahead in the game.
But OKBet basketball TNT had to come back from being behind in the first half. And hold off a San Miguel come back at the end of the fourth to win.
“In the first half, I think we gave them a lot of chances. “They had about ten more possessions because we turned the ball over 13 times in the first half,” Reyes said. “I think we fixed that in the second half, and when we do that, we give them fewer chances.”
Still, no one knows which of Reyes’s deputies will take his place.
“This is a chance for these players to step up and show themselves that they can do it without their head coach. It provides the coaching staff a chance to help out,” Reyes said.
“We don’t see it as a problem or a setback. We see it as a chance.”