Gilas Pilipinas coach Vincent "Chot" Reyes and Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), the country's basketball federation, president Al Panlilio appeared on SportsCenter Philippines on Tuesday to talk about the brawl during the game between the Philippines and Australia in the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers on Monday at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
Reyes said he takes responsibility for his players' actions but continued to defend his team and assign blame to Australia's Daniel Kickert. Reyes pointed to several factors leading up to the game that he said increased tensions -- Australia was coming off an upset loss to Japan and Australia team officials removed FIBA-approved decals from the court, an action that many Gilas officials took offense to.
"As the head coach, I take accountability and responsibility for the actions of the team both on the court and off the court. We apologize to the Filipino fans for that incident happening. Again, you have to be there and you have to be part of Gilas to really understand what happened. We tried to pacify and restrain the players as much as we can. But when you see your brother getting hit it's very hard not to go and defend him. They provoked us during the warm-ups and during a dead ball situation," Reyes said. Reyes is also President and CEO of TV5 Network and Media5.
And Reyes again claimed Kickert was out of line during pregame warmups and throughout the game. Reyes said Kickert's elbow to Roger Pogoy was "the last straw."
Video from the pregame warmups appear to show Kickert shoving Gilas guard Matthew Wright during warmups. Reyes said Wright stepped over the half-court line.
The game featured physical play and then some, according to Reyes.
"There were cheap shots being given to our players, but that's all part of the ballgame. That's fine with me, we expected them to come out hard and play physical and try to intimidate us. We just kept reminding the players to forget about it and focus on the game and not worry about those things. Until the point where this was beyond basketball, it was a dead-ball situation," he said.
"On our end, we're very particular about playing the game the right away. If Australia wants to act like whatever when they're up and gloat and taunt us, that's fine. But there's a line between gloating, taunting, and bullying. I thought when Kickert got that cheap shot on Pogoy during a dead ball, that was bullying and we were not going to be bullied."
Reyes defended the instructions he gave players during a timeout before the fight happened.
"Anyone who understands basketball, if you take offense from that statement, you don't know basketball. But take a look at the statement. They were beating us in transition, so foul early and don't give up a layup. Foul early, put someone down so that the referees will call a foul," Reyes said. "It's the same way when you say 'Give a pick,' you say 'Take his head off.' Those are basketball terms, that's a coaching term."
Panlilio felt a more experienced group of game officials could have prevented things from escalating.
"I was talking to the basketball head of Australia. We were saying both teams played hard and both passionate to win the game. It was really up to the referees on what they can allow and what not to allow," Panlilio said. "We would have wanted a more experienced crew of referees calling the game."
Panlilio said SBP will use the incident as an opportunity to learn and increase stadium security for future events.
"From an SBP standpoint, we will conduct a review comprehensively, and see where we can do better," Panlilio said. "We're hosting the World Cup in 2023. ... We can improve, especially with security around the court. We will make sure to make it safer for everybody in the stadium. We were hosts last night, and for sure we didn't want the Australians to feel unsafe, but they did feel unsafe."
Basketball Australia CEO Anthony Moore admits the sport's global governing body is in "new territory" as it assesses the fight. Moore said Kickert's action was an "unsavoury act" and "challenging" to defend but said his main concern was the rapid escalation.
"Whilst we accept our responsibility for our role in last night's incident, what we don't accept is the action whereby fans and officials actually get involved in the fray," Moore told reporters in Brisbane on Tuesday. "We find that absolutely unacceptable."
One of those was Milwaukee Bucks star Thon Maker who was seen to launch two flying kicks as the brawl escalated out of control. The Sudanese-born Australian took to Twitter on Tuesday morning to issue an apology, stating his actions were borne out of a desire to protect himself and his teammates.
Panlilio addressed the actions of Gilas assistant coach Jong Uichico, who was seen getting involved in the brawl.
Moments after the game, Uichico went on Twitter to apologize for his actions.
"Emotions were very high last night. Jong did apologize publicly about it," Panlilio said.
"In the end, the best statement comes from RR Pogoy," Reyes said. "We have our own Viber group and very simply, Roger Pogoy said 'Thank you brothers, you didn't leave me hanging.' I think in the end, that's the best statement. When we talk about team and brotherhood, we mean it. It's in our DNA, it's in our blood."