Chot Reyes on why he stepped down as Gilas head coach

Chot Reyes' latest stint at the helm of the Philippine national basketball team is over.

Reyes in an exclusive interview Wednesday with ESPN5 said the July 2 brawl between Gilas Pilipinas and the Australia Boomers kicked off a chain of events that led to his resignation.

Reyes is also President and CEO of TV5 Network Inc.

"When the Australia brawl happened and with the investigation, we were already talking as a family that if there is a suspension, chances are I was going to retire or resign," Reyes said. "But of course, always part of that conversation is the management, specifically MVP [Manny V. Pangilinan], the SBP [Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas] and Mr. Al Panlilio. The decision [at the time] was not to make any definite or categorical statements first."

FIBA on July 20 handed out multiple suspensions to 10 Gilas players and an assistant coach. FIBA hit Reyes with a heavy fine and a one-game ban.

"The FIBA decision came out and there was a suspension, which up to now I think is very unfair, but the Federation decided not to appeal anymore, so I support their decision not to appeal," Reyes said. "But I really take exception to the 'inciting unsportsmanlike behavior' decision because I absolutely did not, in my heart of hearts -- even if you ask the players -- there was no intention at all to incite unsportsmanlike behavior. That's when I felt resentment. That's where it started."

The SBP installed Yeng Guiao as the interim national team coach in August for the Asian Games in Indonesia and for the first game of the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers - the game Reyes would have to sit out due to the FIBA suspension.

Reyes said he had a hand in selecting Guiao and the players that would suit up in the Asiad.

"When the time came to name coach Yeng Guiao as my replacement, I was part of that process in making the decision, as well as the players that went to the Asian Games. Then coach Yeng did a very good job in the Asian Games, and I'm a very big believer that when a coach is doing well, let him take it through."

The hastily constructed national team, which included NBA player Jordan Clarkson, played well in Indonesia and concluded with a fifth-place finish.

Guiao and his coaching staff listed PBA players they'd want to have in the player pool for the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers.

Greg Slaughter, Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter, and Scottie Thompson, all of whom were previously never made available to the Gilas program by their respective PBA teams, suddenly were offered to the pool.

"When coach Yeng was doing well in the Asian Games, we started talking. A day or two before MVP was interviewed at Araneta saying that 'Yeah, we might make Yeng the permanent coach,' we had already spoken before that," Reyes said. "That it was the direction we were headed."

"The final straw, obviously, was the PBA giving their full support," Reyes said. "Now that they're throwing their full support behind coach Yeng, then of course who am I to stand in the way?"

When asked why he felt the PBA never gave him their full support before but are seemingly willing to do so now for Guiao, Reyes said the answer should come from the PBA.

"I think that's better asked to them," Reyes said. "I'm not privy to it, but I think the important thing now is there is one hundred percent full PBA support. That's what we've all been working for from Day 1. So now, finally the PBA has made them available. If it takes my stepping aside, then I'll gladly do it."

The SBP on Wednesday released the 12-man lineup Gilas Pilipinas will use against Iran in the fourth window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

Cabagnot, Lassiter, and Thompson are among the 12. Slaughter will miss the game with an ankle injury.

For Reyes, the decision to leave the head coaching job was a painful one to make. But he steps away from the spotlight content, knowing he helped change the culture that saw Filipino basketball fans embrace the national team like never before.

"It's not the (head coaching) position. If you recall I was already retired in 2016 when I was asked to take this position again and to come back as the head coach of Gilas. I never applied for it and I didn't force myself onto it, but I have come to admire the players, the coaches and the other officials around the team. So in that sense, it made (the decision to step down) difficult," said Reyes.

"But like I said, I leave with no bitterness in my heart because I know we've been able to build something special. The brand Gilas, the puso battlecry and the respect (we get) right now anywhere in the world, not only in Asia, I think Philippine basketball is very much respected. For me, that is something I am very happy to be a part of. I can very easily move on from that."