Right as the buzzer sounded, Coach Chot Reyes threw his fists up to the air.
He had just completed one of the most important milestones in his coaching career. And the entire arena celebrated with him. The fans stood in applause of what he and his team had accomplished.
Reyes wasn’t at the Mall of Asia Arena. It wasn’t 2013.
He wasn’t at the Araneta Coliseum. It wasn’t 2017.
It was a moment that happened exactly 24 years ago, at the Cuneta Astrodome.
On May 18, 1993, Coach Chot celebrated the first of his many championships in the PBA.
During that time, Reyes had just graduated from being Tim Cone’s assistant in Alaska. He was hired by the Coney Island Ice Cream Stars as their head coach. And in his very first stint as lead mentor, he won the All-Filipino Cup.
They were up against a San Miguel Beermen that was led by Coach Norman Black. When they faced off in 1993, Black already had seven PBA championships under his belt. The matchup was far from even. But the 29-year old Reyes found a way to pull rug from under the veteran. The feat was highlighted by a title-clinching Game 6 that even went into overtime.
That kicked off what would eventually become a very colorful career for Coach Chot Reyes.
Since then, Reyes has won seven more PBA championships. He has been named Coach of the Year five times.
His success has reached the international scene too. Reyes has led the Philippines to numerous podium finishes – the biggest one, of course, was the silver medal in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship.
With Coach Chot at the helm, our country worked its way back to the world map of basketball. It started with that win over Korea in 2013. Then, Gilas continued to make waves in 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain.
Gilas won one out of five games in Seville. They didn’t advance past the first round. But they made the world take a second glance at us. And that alone spelled victory.
“Coach Chot is a winner. That’s number one,” said long-time basketball analyst Andy Jao. “He has good vision inside the court. He understands both situational and fundamental basketball. Marunong siya sa mga plays and scouting. Magaling din siya magbasa ng laro. That’s also why he’s good for the national team.”
Reyes is a leader on and off the court. Apart from coaching Gilas Pilipinas, he is also the President of TV5 Network Inc. And in many ways, his leadership in the executive world relates to that of his in basketball.
“The way you see him coaching a basketball team is also the way he coaches us and leads us in our management committee,” said Patricia Bermudez-Hizon, who succeeded Reyes as head of Sports5. “He understands the team’s strengths and individual assets. He plays on with those and helps everyone improve.”
That’s also the key to Coach Chot’s success – his people.
“He’s always prepared. And he’s not afraid to surround himself with good quality people,” Jao added.
When he won his first championship in 1993, Reyes was surrounded by eventual legends like Alvin Patrimonio, Jerry Codiñera and Olsen Racela. When he won titles with the Coca-Cola Tigers, he had Johnny Abarrientos, Jeffrey Cariaso and Rudy Hatfield. In his more recent championships with Talk ‘N Text, Coach Chot worked with Jimmy Alapag, Jayson Castro and a bunch of other notable names.
When he took Gilas Pilipinas to Spain in 2014, he made sure he had with him the best set of players this country could put together.
And in his return as that national team’s head coach, just three weeks after choosing his 12-man roster for the 2017 SEABA Championship, Reyes led Gilas Pilipinas to another gold medal.
Exactly 24 years after his first PBA title inside the Cuneta Astrodome, Reyes once again throws his fists up to fists up to the air. But this time, it’s a championship for him, his people, and his country.