PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA – Eric Samson doesn’t find it odd seeing himself on the opposing end each time the Philippine national teams compete in the Southeast Asian Games.
As early as the 2011 SEA Games, Samson has been coaching rival countries, calling the shots on the Vietnam’s men’s basketball team, before he was succeeded by another Filipino mentor, Jojo Castillo.
In this year’s edition of men’s basketball competition in the biennial meet, Vietnam was handled by another mentor who had linkage to Filipino basketball – American Todd Purves, who served as an active coaching consultant for San Miguel Beer in the Philippine Basketball Association.
As for Samson, he was able to crack a spot as an assistant coach in Thailand’s women’s basketball team, which was defeated by Gilas Pilipinas, 70-82, on 14 May and the Thais missed the opportunity of cracking the podium.
“I started getting involved with the Thailand team in its under-19 squad for the FIBA World tournament and in under-18 tournament of the FIBA Asia in September last year,” Samson replied via Messenger to Daily Tribune.
Samson, who coached the Paranaque Patriots in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League in 2019, started coaching overseas as early as 2004 in Oman, coaching Al-Nasr.
For Samson, coaching against any Philippine squad feels strange as he has to go up against his compatriots.
“We have to be professional no matter how strange it feels,” he added.
But while coaching overseas, he brought with him that Filipino pride of transferring the skill set that he can bring to different countries.
“I take pride on that,” said Samson. “At least, Filipinos are being respected and trusted that we can help a lot in terms of improving the skill set of their players.”
Samson’s next task is to help raise the level of play of the Thais, but they’re shying way of turning the team to an instant powerhouse by bringing in naturalized players just like what other teams did in this year’s SEA Games.
Instead, they want to develop their players gradually.
“We’re looking for Thai players who are based in America and Europe, but they’re not thinking of bringing in naturalized players. As much as possible, they want to get players with Thai bloodline,” added Samson.
“Hopefully, we can develop the skills, mental and physical toughness and game awareness of our players, just like our players from the Philippines.”