FIBA - International Basketball Federation

04/16/2019 | News release | Distributed by Public on 04/16/2019 01:16

''Returning to coach the Philippines at the World Cup is destiny'' - Yeng Guiao

MANILA (Philippines) - Joseller 'Yeng' Guiao was once not top-of-mind for a lot of fans when thinking of would-be national team coaches, especially given his previous track record.

'It's destiny. I never knew I would be in this position when it happened.'- Yeng Guiao

Coach Yeng first helmed the Philippines national team a decade ago at the FIBA Asia Cup 2009 in Tianjin, China, which served as a qualifier for the 2010 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Turkey. He had the pick of the litter, so to speak, when it came to the best talents in the country's top tier league, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). Despite that, he and his team managed to finish a paltry 8th place - way below expectations.

After that stint, coach Yeng thought for sure that his days of being national team coach were over and done with.

We know now, of course, that he was wrong because not only was he recalled to the national team in 2018, he was able to successfully steer the Team Pilipinas back to the biggest stage of international basketball, the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China.

Playing at the quadrennial event will be far from easy, though, especially given the caliber of teams in the group. The Filipinos were drawn in Group D with Angola, Italy and Serbia.

Still, making it this far has been a major achievement in coach Yeng's redemption arc, more so with the Philippines' backs against the wall entering the final Asian Qualifiers window. The Filipinos' emphatic sweep over Qatar and Kazakhstan, however, ensured their fifth trip to the World Cup and guaranteed the country three straight appearances since the Philippines will co-host the next World Cup in 2023 with Japan and Indonesia.

For coach Yeng, all these circumstances point to only one thing.

'It's destiny,' he said. 'I had no idea, no plan. It all started with the incident with Australia. At that time, I was just an outsider looking in. I never knew I would be in this position when it happened.'

Being unexpected wasn't the most interesting element of coach Yeng's appointment, though. Let's not forget that he also had to scramble for new players to fill in the spots for the national team beginning in the fourth window last September. He knew that time was not on his side and that unlike in 2009, he didn't exactly have the pick of the litter, but he didn't let those hindrances derail his second chance to serve the country.

'I couldn't say no,' he shared. 'It's an honor to serve the national team once again. I wanted to give it a try. The goal was to make the World Cup. If we had failed, I planned to step down right away.'

By now, however, we all know he didn't fail. He, in fact, passed with flying colors, especially when one asks Ryan Gregorio, special assistant to the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Al Panlilio.

'His ability to utilize and bring out the best in his players are things that people rave about,' explained Gregorio. 'His is an epitome of a servant whose sound bites are consistent with his actions. No pretensions, no discrimination. Members of the coaching staff have a voice in his decision-making. He takes the pressure off everybody by telling the players and the coaches to just do their best. I remember him saying, 'If things turn out bad, look at me, and I will take the blame. If things work out well, I will simply walk away and the credit goes to all of you.''

But such high praise is not what gets coach Yeng jumping out of bed each day thinking of how the Philippines can make a splash in China later this year.

It's the thought that he, his coaching staff and the players will be representing the country at the World Cup, where they will be ranged against some of basketball's crème de la crème. He wants to do justice to the calling of the national team, and he wants to parade a team all Filipinos can be proud to call their own.

'We're not just talking about any team; this is for the whole country,' he declared. 'It feels like a championship but probably more than a championship because it brings you to another level. And it's not just about bringing joy to the fans of one PBA team or the other. You bring joy to the whole nation.'

The Philippines open their World Cup campaign on August 31 in Foshan, where they will face Italy, Serbia and Angola in succession. Needless to say, all the Filipino fans who will undoubtedly troop to China and those back home in the Philippines will be watching coach Yeng and his wards sport their country's colors with pride.