MANILA, Philippines – Yeng Guiao remained at the national team's helm for the fourth window of the World Cup qualifiers as a stand-in coach for Chot Reyes, who needed to serve a one-game suspension.
But with the PBA and its 12 teams fully opening its doors to Gilas Pilipinas under Guiao's tutelage, Reyes made the decision to step aside and completely surrender his post as head coach.
With Guiao calling the shots, the Filipinos split their games in the fourth window – taking a 73-81 road loss to Iran on September 13 before pulling off a comeback 92-81 win over Qatar on September 17 in a closed-door game.
It had been a relatively successful return to national team duties for Guiao with the Philippines improving to 5-3 for 3rd place in Group F, as he was also officially appointed head coach weeks before the fifth window.
Coinciding with Guiao's formal takeover of the Gilas program is the formation of a 20-man pool for the fifth window, which had been touted as the greatest collection of talent in Philippine basketball history.
Seven-foot-one wunderkind Kai Sotto was included in the pool alongside veterans LA Tenorio and Arwind Santos, who both had not played for the national team in years.
Height was not a problem for Gilas as top PBA big men June Mar Fajardo, Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar, Christian Standhardinger, Poy Erram, Ian Sangalang and Beau Belga formed the frontcourt.
The team also had no shortage in talented guards with Jayson Castro, Paul Lee, Stanley Pringle, Alex Cabagnot, Scottie Thompson, Matthew Wright, Marcio Lassiter and Ricci Rivero.
Gilas mainstays and versatile forwards Gabe Norwood and Troy Rosario were also part of the pool.
Filipino basketball fans marvelled at the abundance of talent the national team had at its disposal, but Guiao was quick to dismiss the "best Philippine team" tag.
"I think that will only be proven with the accomplishment that you're able to achieve," the fiery mentor said. – Rappler.com