Toroman led the original Gilas to a 4th place in the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship.
If there is one man who knows how to run a hoops program, it will have to be Rajko Toroman
He was, after all, Serbian tactician who helped Iran make it to the 2008 Beijing Olympics and was instrumental in transforming the Jordanian national squad into an Asian contender. He is also widely credited for boosting Indonesia’s basketball program, to the point that it shocked Gilas Pilipinas in the last game of the 31st Southeast Asian Games to dethrone the Philippines as the region’s hoops king.
Gilas has since atoned for that shock loss, completing its redemption mission in Cambodia by beating Indonesia in the semifinal and then outlasting the hosts in the gold-medal match.
Toroman, however, was hardly impressed.
“It was not so exciting how they played,” Toroman told Noli Eala in his Power & Play podcast on Saturday. “A lot of people were asking me if this was the best team of the Philippines, and I said that’s the best team in this moment. In the Philippines now, there are [about] 40 players who can play for the national team. It’s about who the coach chooses to play. In this moment, that was the best team.”
The Serbian coach, of course, is intimately familiar with the Gilas program, leading the very first Gilas iteration back in 2009—and spearheading it until 2011.
In the eyes of Toroman, though, that program is no more.
“I don’t see any program,” Toroman said bluntly. “I can see one team playing this tournament, another team is playing another tournament. In our time, we were working with collegiate players. Now, it’s a little bit different. It’s easier to make a great team, but they [Gilas] have to always be serious about the competition."
Toroman makes a fair point. Every Gilas iteration since that magical 2014 World Cup squad has been assembled almost hastily, with new players being added on the fly—affecting continuity and chemistry in the process. That was the case, too, with the Gilas Redeem Team that went to Cambodia.
But, to Toroman’s point, the players are there. The talent is there. The real challenge is building a team and maintaining it from one tournament to the next.