David and Goliath: Gilas Pilipinas in the 2014 Barcelona FIBA Finals


Something occurred to me while waiting for the NBA Christmas Day games.

Malcolm Gladwell recently published “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants”.  In Chapter One, Gladwell recounts the amazing story of Vivek Ranadive, who coached his daughter’s all-rookie National Junior Basketball team. It didn’t help that the girls were also not particularly tall.

Ranadive got the girls to train for soccer – he made them run and run and run. In order to win, he had the most exhausting strategy in mind. He realized that his team should not play to the strengths of their much taller opponents. Instead, he thought that his team should adopt the winning strategy of David against Goliath, which meant utilizing their lightning fast speed.

The strategy worked for Ranadive’s Silicon Valley girls team. A couple of underdog teams in the NCAA had since also had success with the same strategy – Fordham University and my alma mater, Boston University.

I figure that the  34th ranked Gilas Pilipinas team has a very good chance of making the FIBA Finals in Barcelona in 2014 if they adopt the Ranadive approach.

What is this strategy anyway? A full-court press for the whole 40 minutes! This means always trying to choke the inbound pass, use the extra man in the court as a floater to crowd the inbound pass receiver, and ensure that the action happens throughout the full 94 feet of the basketball court and not just half of it. Of course, this means that the defensive players (in this case, Gilas Pilipinas) need to be fast enough to fall back if the offensive team do manage to bring the ball past half court. This also means that Gilas has to be able to execute flawlessly in transition if they do manage to steal the ball in the back court.

Passion and Greatness

If the Gilas Pilipinas team starts hard training now, they can still build the stamina this innovative basketball style requires. (Paging Coach Chot Reyes: What have we got to lose?)

Still, technique is merely half the battle. The greater half is attitude.

On cable TV tonight, I saw the movie “Invictus”, where Morgan Freeman played the great Nelson Mandela. Mandela was asked why he felt so passionately about the South African Rugby Team, the Springboks. Mandela was told that even if the team worked as hard as they could, they will be the fittest team in the 1995 World Cup, but hardly the most talented. Mandela believed that the Springboks can win the title because South Africa was a country in search of greatness. And win the World Cup, they did.

As a nation, we have the deepest passion for basketball. Maybe we need to believe that our team can win. That our team can achieve the basketball greatness that was almost within our grasp during the time of Caloy Loyzaga. Making the prospect of victory credible (despite the team make up) for both the team and its supporters is the coach’s task. Think Greg Popovich in the case of the San Antonio Spurs or Sir Alex Ferguson in the case of Manchester United. Ferguson was so successful that his club won 13 English League titles along with 25 other trophies over 26 seasons. Ferguson’s Formula for success is now even the subject of a Harvard Business Review article

Coach Chot Reyes needs to  make Gilas Pilipinas believe that they can be the deadly Davids in a tournament of gargantuan Goliaths.


(p.s. Who is Vivek Ranadive anyway? And why should we listen to his amateurish, cockamamie idea? Well, apart from being the CEO of TIBCO, he is the leader of the ownership consortium of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings! Coach Chot?)


One thought on “David and Goliath: Gilas Pilipinas in the 2014 Barcelona FIBA Finals

  1. In order for this strategy to work, Smart Gilas would have to have depth. Full-court presses require a lot of running so the players would get fatigued. The players would also be aggressive on defense, which could mean a lot of fouls for Gilas. So the Gilas Pilipinas need good players coming off the bench just in case the starters get tired or get into foul trouble.


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