Why San Miguel is All-Filipino champ again
By Al S. Mendoza
LET’S call a spade a spade.
Chot Reyes has just committed a monumental boo-boo that will haunt him for the rest of his life.
He chose a meaningless chore over a hugely important mission.
Instead of putting his heart into TNT’s title-retention campaign, he shuttled to Gilas Pilipinas in a move so shocking it was crazier than Manny Pacquiao’s ill-fated decision to run for president in the May 9 polls.
There was a championship to be won but Chot Reyes ignored it.
He put more weight to Gilas Pilipinas than TNT’s title showdown against San Miguel Beer.
It was crazy because by coaching Gilas Pilipinas, Reyes won’t achieve anything.
He did it for flag and country?
That’s baloney big time.
Nothing was at stake when Gilas Pilipinas battled Lebanon in Beirut and Saudi Arabia at the MOA Arena in Pasay City.
Reyes piloted Gilas to an 85-81 defeat—a loss that was expected from the start since we got bamboozled by the Lebanese in an earlier meeting.
OK, Reyes got Gilas to defeat Saudi Arabia via a ghastly 84-46 rout.
But that was expected since the Saudis are still so desert-wide behind in basketball. They treat the game like an oil residue.
And with NBA star Jordan Clarkson and 7-foot-3 Kai Sotto leading the attack against the Saudis, the Gilas players were tipped to win handily even with their one eye closed.
And look at this: both games against Lebanon and Saudi Arabia were no-bearing games.
Meaning, win or loss, Gilas would gain nothing.
Prestige? But where’s pride in bamboozling a tournament doormat like Saudi Arabia?
And consider again: Even if we lost to both Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, it would have meant nothing, too.
The Philippines being co-host with Japan and Indonesia in the Fiba World Cup next year is assured of a slot in the tournament proper. Same with Japan and Indonesia.
So, why the hell did Chot Reyes bother to coach Gilas against Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, in effect neglecting his TNT commitment that required his presence from beginning to end of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals?
Did he not begin on a winning note, steering TNT to an 86-84 squeaker over San Miguel on a gun-beating jumper by Jayson Castro in the best-of-seven opener?
But instead of nurturing, preserving, what he had started, Chot left for Lebanon, leaving poor TNT to the care of the obscure Sandy Arespacochaga—not just Game 2 but Game 3 as well.
Result? The Beermen swept both games via scores of 109-100 and 108-100 for a 2-1 series lead.
TNT, with Chot back, rallied and won Games 4 & 5 to go 3-2 up and move one game shy of the championship.
But an undaunted SMB roared back with a crushing 114-96 win in Game 6 to force a Game 7 decider.
That’s when tragedy struck TNT as Chot Reyes was felled by COVID-19 on the eve of the final game.
And, in a shocker to end all shockers, Chot designated his son, Josh, to coach TNT in the winner-take-all contest.
A suicide act since Josh is a total stranger to championship coaching.
Thus, San Miguel easily bundled out TNT, 119-97, sealing the title-clincher with a blazing 35-8 blast in the game’s fourth and final quarter last Sunday.
I pray Chot’s sleepless nights are over.
Not to mention he is finally virus-free?
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