In a move that caught everyone by surprise, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) announced late Monday that Vincent "Chot" Reyes will again coach the Philippine men's national basketball team.
He is taking over from Tab Baldwin, whose success last year with his young pool of amateur players was widely praised. It also made his sudden resignation all the more puzzling.
Reyes said he never thought he would be asked to lead Gilas again. "I was thoroughly enjoying my work as TNT head coach while being very busy with my leadership and team development practice when this sudden turn of events took place," he told ESPN in a text message.
The timing of the coaching change was also unusual given that the Philippines will be hosting the next window of the 2023 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers in late February, and Reyes knows he has his work cut out for him. A number of key players from Baldwin's pool are currently playing overseas, while others have signed PBA contracts in recent days.
"Too early to tell," he said when asked about the composition of the team. "We are still in the process of taking an inventory of available players from the current Gilas pool. But it seems inevitable that we will need PBA reinforcements because there are very few available."
This is Reyes' fourth go-around as Gilas Pilipinas' head coach in an international career that started nearly 17 years ago. He was an assistant on the Philippine Centennial Team that bagged the bronze medal in the 1998 Asian Games, but didn't get his first call-up as head coach until seven years later. Here are the highlights of his international coaching career.
2005: Reyes is appointed head coach of the Philippine national men's basketball team. He held the position until 2008. FIBA suspended the Philippines for the first two years of his tenure, which prevented the national team from participating in several international tournaments.
2007: The FIBA ban is lifted and Reyes led the first all-PBA team in the FIBA-Asia Championship. That team -- led by Jimmy Alapag, Mark Caguioa, and Asi Taulava -- finished ninth. The following year, Reyes is named coach of Talk 'N Text in the PBA and stepped down as national team coach. He is replaced by Yeng Guiao.
2012: After leading Talk 'N Text to four PBA titles, Reyes is reappointed head coach of the national team, now known as Gilas Pilipinas. Later that year, the team comprised of several PBA players and backstopped by naturalized player Marcus Douthit wins the William Jones Cup, the country's first Jones Cup championship in 14 years. Reyes became the first Filipino coach to win a Jones Cup championship.
August 2013: Playing before a home crowd, Gilas Pilipinas finished second in the FIBA Asia Championship and qualified for the 2014 FIBA World Cup. The run included a win over longtime rivals South Korea in the semifinals where a tearful Reyes was caught on camera burying his head in his hands after the final buzzer.
August-September 2014: In the country's first appearance in the FIBA World Cup in 36 years, Gilas Pilipinas competed well in group play -- they lost to Croatia in overtime, and lost both Argentina and Puerto Rico by four. In their last game, the Filipinos beat Senegal in overtime to notch the country's first win in the World Cup in 40 years. Gilas finished 21st overall among 24 teams.
September 2014: Following their World Cup stint, Reyes led Gilas in the Inchon Asian Games. The team finished seventh in a disastrous stint -- the worst-ever finish for the Philippines in Asian Games men's basketball. In a quarterfinal round game against Kazakhstan where the team needed to win by at least 11 points to advance, Reyes drew criticism for ordering his team to shoot at the opponent's basket to force overtime. Shortly after returning to the Philippines, Reyes resigned as head coach. Tab Baldwin is named as replacement in early 2015.
2016: Baldwin stepped down following Gilas' failed stint in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, Reyes is once again named head coach and is tasked with qualifying the team for the 2019 FIBA World Cup. Reyes formed the Gilas Cadets pool, which is a collection of top amateur players about to enter the PBA and will be on-call for national team duty even after they turn pro.
August 2017: Gilas finished seventh in the FIBA Asia Cup, the team's last major tournament before the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers kick off.
November 2017: Gilas beats Japan, 77-71, in Tokyo and Chinese Taipei, 90-83, at home to kick off their Asian Qualifiers stint on a high note.
July 2, 2018: Just three days after an impressive 93-71 win over Chinese Taipei in Taipei, Gilas defaults against Australia at the Philippine Arena after a brawl breaks out in the third quarter that left the team with just three players. Officials ejected four players from Australia and nine from the Philippines. FIBA suspended several players and coaches from both sides, including Reyes, who was penalized with a one-game suspension and fined the equivalent of PHP534,000 "for inciting unsportsmanlike behavior."
July 25, 2018: Yeng Guiao is named coach of Gilas for the Jakarta Asian Games. No players from the Australia game are named to the team. During the tournament, the SBP announces that Guiao will lead Gilas for the rest of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
February 2021: Reyes is reappointed head coach of the TNT franchise in the PBA, his first coaching stint in the professional league in nearly 10 years. He leads the Tropang Giga to the 2021 Philippine Cup title, the franchise's first PBA championship in six years.
January 31, 2022: The SBP announces that Reyes is again the head coach of Gilas Pilipinas after Baldwin steps down to concentrate on his job as head coach of the Ateneo Blue Eagles. Reyes will coach the team in the February 2022 window of the 2023 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers to be held at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.