Jimmy Alapag open to coaching Gilas if given the chance

MACAU -Former Gilas team skipper Jimmy Alapag is open to handling the national team if he's given the chance by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.

But the 41-year-old Alapag also knows the kind of pressure coaching the Gilas team brings.

"I would be ready. I think that job (offers a) unique opportunity, but it also comes with a huge, huge responsibility," Alapag said, who appeared at the East Asia Super League Terrific 12 press launch on Tuesday.

"We all know how passionate we are for the game of basketball. But just as every other 99.9 percent Filipinos, I share that same passion," stressed the former PBA great.

Gilas' head coaching position is now vacant following the resignation of Yeng Guiao last week. Guiao failed to steer the national team to a victory, finishing with an 0-5 record and dropping last in the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China participated by 32 nations.

And if ever Alapag gets the call, he believes coaching the national team and plotting Gilas' redemption won't just be the job of one person.

"If ever that were the case, we'll see, but I honestly wouldn't want to go to that (coaching) position by myself. I think whoever is the future coach will need help going forward especially since we're hosting in (the) 2023 (FIBA World Cup)."

Alapag also begged to disagree on what some people would think as the widening gap between European national teams and that of Asia or Gilas in particular.

As a many-time national player before, Alapag pointed to Gilas' 2014 stint in the World Cup as proof.

"It's easy to say that just because of the result. But I don't think it's as far as this particular World Cup showed because if you look back at 2014, we're very, very close to not just beating one European team, but multiple European teams," said Alapag, who serves as representative to the FIBA Players' Union.

Alapag was obviously referring to Gilas' 81-78 overtime loss to Croatia, the Filipinos' 85-81 setback to another world basketball power Argentina, along with losses to Puerto Rico (77-73) and Greece (82-70).

Gilas managed to bring one win home when it edged Senegal, 81-79 in overtime with no less than Alapag saving his best for last as a national player after scoring 18 points.

The soft-spoken coach is convinced the Philippines has time to come up with a solid program that can somehow redeem Gilas when the country co-hosts the World Cup in 2023 with Japan and Indonesia.

"You guys know how much the Gilas program means to me, having been part of the program for so long," shared Alapag. "And for everybody watching this last World Cup, it was tough because I think we all know this was not our best performance. We know we're capable of much, much better."

"But it happens. Rather than blaming anyone or anything like that, it's just a matter of how can we move forward and get better," explained Alapag, best remembered for guiding Alab Pilipinas to the 2018 Asean Basketball League title.

Alapag also said SBP officials will simply have to harness the talent available right now at the grassroots in order to bring the Philippines back in the game.

"I don't think in our country's talent is a question. It's just a matter of getting the most out of that talent and being able to play in that level once you get to the World Cup," he said.

Alapag owns averages of 9.9 points, 2.7 assists and 2.1 rebounds in the four FIBA tournaments he played for the Philippines.