After the Philippines' success with a hastily assembled team at the Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, coach Yeng Guiao told ESPN5 he is now focused on the FIBA World Cup qualifier game against Iran and not on the prospect of becoming the full-time coach for the Gilas Pilipinas.
A report that Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) chairman emeritus Manuel V. Pangilinan appears to be considering Guiao to replace coach Chot Reyes does not seem to phase Guiao.
"I will just do my best [to] coach the team and try to prepare it as best as I can," Guiao said. "If I can elicit the same commitment and the same effort the boys put out in the Asian Games, I will be happy. The results will just follow. I don't think the 'pressure' is coming from that possibility [of becoming the permanent Gilas Pilipinas coach]. My pressure right now is how to maximize all this talent and conduct them like an orchestra and produce the greatest symphony. That's my pressure."
Now Guiao faces an uncertain future with the Gilas.
"Our first agreement was that I accepted the job only because I knew it was temporary," he said. "I was pinch-hitting [for Reyes]. I was holding the fort."
"Nothing has been said to me yet. It's hard to contemplate on a matter that isn't real yet. If that happens, then that's the time I'll think about it. Because right now -- if this is temporary -- I can do that, then I go back to NLEX. If this is not temporary and it goes on for a longer period of time, then I have a problem. But it's a good problem."
Guiao also has a good problem in regards to the roster for the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup qualifiers. There is a wealth of talent suddenly at his disposal.
"What we've learned is that China, Korea, and even Iran, although we really haven't played Iran yet, are beatable," Guiao told ESPN5 before Monday's practice at the Meralco Gym. "We can put up a really good fight and have a chance to win against those teams, which has been proven in the Asian Games."
The Philippines team lost to China -- the eventual champions of the 2018 Asiad -- by just two points in the preliminary round and held a third period lead over the Koreans before fading down the stretch.
The Philippines won three games at the Asian Games by an average margin of 41.6 points, good for a fifth-place finish to improve on a seventh-place finish four years ago in Incheon, Korea.
"The biggest takeaway of the Asian Games is that with very little preparation, with a team that's been called 'rag-tag', with a team that was expected to just 'participate' as a 'token team' (the team) played with intensity and commitment," Guiao said. "In our game against Kazakhstan, without Jordan Clarkson yet on the team, we set the tone. I think that game was more important than any of the others because it set the tone; it showed us that as long as the team is committed, as long as everybody is buying into a system and they play for each other, it can be done."
Momentum from the Asian Games carried over as all 16 of the players he invited for the initial walk-through showed up.
"[I was telling] Coach Caloy [Garcia], Coach Ryan [Gregorio] and the rest of our staff, when we looked at the court, it's as if we're dreaming," Guiao said. "'Is this reality? Is this really happening?' If the others just weren't suspended, we would have the best talents in the PBA and all the teams would have made that contribution to allow their best players, to allow their 'superstars' to be together in one team. I'm actually awed and suddenly I felt the pressure (to deliver)."
Guiao has eight holdovers from the Asia Games -- Rain or Shine's Gabe Norwood, Beau Belga and Raymond Almazan -- and Magnolia guard Paul Lee, Blackwater pivot Poy Erram, Stanley Pringle of NorthPort, Christian Standhardinger of San Miguel and skipper Asi Taulava of NLEX.
The team added San Miguel's Marcio Lassiter (who played in the original Smart Gilas program) and Alex Cabagnot (whom Guiao had coached as a member of the now-defunct Burger King Whoppers), the Ginebra duo of Greg Slaughter (also from Gilas 1.0) and recently crowned PBA Commissioners' Cup Finals MVP Scottie Thompson, Magnolia slot man Ian Sangalang, Gilas reserve Allein Maliksi of Blackwater with Gilas mainstays Matthew Wright and Japeth Aguilar (who are still serving their FIBA-imposed one-game suspension but will be eligible for the closed-door home tiff against Qatar).
June Mar Fajardo will be out of basketball action for six to eight weeks with a leg injury, while the other members of the Gilas core will be missing this upcoming fourth window with various multi-game suspensions stemming from the July 2 with the Australian Boomers to close the first round of competition for the tournament.
The goal is for the Gilas to win an away game at Iran on September 13 and defend home turf against Qatar on September 17. The game against Qatar will be played behind closed doors-again as a result of FIBA sanctions for the brawl with Australia.
"The chemistry we developed in the Asian Games was beautiful. It was very beautiful," Guiao shared. "Even with Jordan Clarkson there and it was getting better as he played more games! Chemistry sometimes is very fleeting. It's also very fragile. I wouldn't know if this new team [has] the pieces that are going to fall into their proper places. But I will certainly try to do that; to replicate the kind of teamwork, the kind of camaraderie that [we had] in the Asian Games."