Former Phoenix head coach Ariel Vanguardia believes Gilas Pilipinas has a big chance of upstaging Asian powerhouse Iran in the 2018 FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers on September 13 in Tehran.
Vanguardia got a closer look at the national squad Sunday following their tune-up match with the iECO Green Warriors, the team he is handling, which is preparing for the 2018 Asia League Terrific 12 in Macau next week.
The amiable coach noted that the strong chemistry the Filipinos displayed in their only tune-up match can work to the national team's advantage against the Iranians.
"When their reserves came in, they were simply like the starters, they showed very good chemistry. That's evident when coach Yeng (Guiao) played (Alex) Cabagnot and (Marcio) Lassiter, then Paul Lee and Ian (Sangalang), and then he also played Scottie (Thompson) and Japeth (Aguilar) together, so team chemistry was very good, they don't have a problem with that," Vanguardia told ESPN5 on Sunday.
The 45-year-old coach added that Gilas Pilipinas was able to execute its defensive scheme, enabling the Guiao-mentored squad to pull away from a tight contest on the way to a 99-82 win.
"In the times that we were making a game out of it and cut the (Gilas Pilipinas) lead down to one point, that was the time (IECO import Richard) Howell was dominating," he observed.
"But once they double-teamed Howell and their defensive schemes started working, Howell went to kick out the ball, but that's when we started to struggle because their three-point shots also started to fall," added Vanguardia, who is best remembered for steering the Westports Malaysia Dragons to the 2016 Asean Basketball League championship.
Guiao has yet to name the final 12 that will play against Iran this coming Thursday.
Barangay Ginebra slotman Greg Slaughter only watched the tune-up match as he is still nursing a left ankle injury.
Nonetheless, all 16 members of the national pool will be leaving Monday night for Tehran. Gilas Pilipinas will have its last practice in Manila on Monday morning at 10 A.M.