Was Tab Baldwin right all along?
PBA officials might downplay the league’s dismal performance at the East Asia Super League (EASL) in Japan. But the same outcome remains: stacked Filipino champion clubs got wrecked by their international counterparts as if they had no business being invited in the first place.
Granted, both TNT and San Miguel’s imports were recent additions with few days of practice. June Mar Fajardo was out as well. But semantics barely matter for a country that lives and breathes basketball. Not when the four losses saw huge deficits: TNT by 33 and 11 points, SMB by 28 and 55.
Amidst the criticism of the PBA is the revival of statements made by Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin on its supposedly outdated practices, coaching, and format. The Olympic tactician appeared on the Tiebreaker podcast in 2020 and was fined PHP 75,000 on top of a three-game suspension.
Baldwin, who led his native New Zealand to multiple medal finishes overseas, would be heavily criticized by SMC Director Alfrancis Chua, Letran coach Bonnie Tan, and then-Northport coach Pido Jarencio. Jarencio called Baldwin an “arrogant prick.”
Fast forward to 2023, Baldwin appears justified – if you’re going by the litany of comments on social media.
“Tab Baldwin vindicated! PBA teams are mediocre playing outside their comfort zone and own backyard,” said one commenter. “If only there was a genius coach from Ateneo who gave PBA advice on how to improve internationally,” said another. One praised the players but was critical of the league. “Mukhang totoo nga ang sinasabi ni Tab Baldwin sa PBA. Sa totoo lang, magagaling ang players sa PBA, ang sistema ang problema.“
But what exactly did Tab Baldwin say that seemingly made him a savant to Filipino audiences, and a thorn for PBA officials?
On Philippine coaching
“The thing that annoys me, and the biggest surprise to me, was the “tactical immaturity” of the Philippines basketball coaches.
[What I mean by that is] they are significantly unaware of the tactical advancements and systemic advancements of coaching systems coming out of Europe, which is built on the backs of player development.”
On imports and conferences
“In the PBA, we have three conferences. Two of those conferences are single import conferences. This [format] is a big mistake; we should never have a single import playing on a team.
Further, we should never have an import that is given all of the rules latitudes… by the referees and the administration of the PBA.
I do believe it is by the administration, and I do believe that it is based on the desire to have superstars as a marketing tool for the PBA. “
The supposed “superstar” treatment of imports
“Put it in layman’s terms, a foul for a local player isn’t a foul on an import [and vice versa].
So our local players are competitively disadvantaged in their ability to compete against the import players, and this is not the case in other countries.”
On running offenses through imports
“[Imports] are given all the advantages.
The PBA coaches are smart, and they’re good basketball coaches, but they could be much better if they were forced to coach much more, then they would show their real talents.
Because of the way our imports are treated here, it’s not sound thinking for a coach to not exploit what’s obvious to every PBA coach, and that is to run your offensive system through your import.
You are getting an extraordinary amount of free throws through the imports. You get an extraordinary amount of easy basket opportunities through the import, and you get an extraordinary amount of situations where the local players literally get out of the way of the imports.”
On the PBA system
“I think that system creates a false landscape for our basketball coaches and our basketball players and I think it needs to be changed sooner rather than later.”