MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australia assistant coach and former NBA star Luc Longley has accused Philippines coach Chot Reyes of inciting the violence that marred a World Cup qualifying match between the teams on Monday.
The former Chicago Bulls player described the bench-clearing brawl which saw 13 players, including four Australians, ejected from the match as the worst thing he had seen on a basketball court.
Longley, who has been praised for his efforts to protect Australian player Chris Goulding from a large group of Philippines players, said Reyes had called on his players during a time out to “hit somebody, put somebody on their …”
Reyes has defended the comments, which were picked up by television microphones, as a routine instruction to his players to foul on fast breaks.
Speaking to media on Wednesday, Longley rejected Reyes’ comments and criticized the Philippines players for posing for a group selfie after the brawl had abated. Basketball Australia has sought to limit further comment on the brawl which is being investigated by world governing body FIBA.
But Longley was eager to speak, condemning what he called the “gangster” behavior of some Philippines players.
“I do believe their coach Chot Reyes incited them to come out and thug us,” Longley said. “There’s video evidence of that.
“Then he substituted a thug out there who took three or four cheap swings at (Goulding). This is out of the party line but I’m most disturbed with their head coach. I think he was embarrassed by the way his team was playing. I think he was embarrassed by the shape they were in. I think he was embarrassed by how they fought.
“He wouldn’t look me in the eye at the end of the game when I shook his hand. I think he was embarrassed and that’s where a lot of it came from. I’m upset with him more than anybody. To let his team take gangster selfies on the baseline after something like that, that shows a total lack of control and respect.”
Longley said he felt he had no choice but to come off the bench to defend Goulding when he saw the Australian pinned under a pile of Philippines players.
“Those are the sorts of images you hope you never see, one guy lying on the ground covering up his head and being kicked and beaten by the other team, players and officials and guys from the crowd,” he said. “It was horrifying. I wasn’t supposed to come off the bench. It was really disturbing.
“I went onto the court to protect our guys, with the idea of not hurting anyone, just putting my big body in the way.”
Basketball Australia was expected to make Goulding available to speak to reporters Wednesday but withdrew him, saying he would speak “at a better time.”
Australian veteran Daniel Kickert who was seen to elbow a Philippines player in response to a foul on Goulding before the brawl erupted, described the violence as “regrettable.”
“I was put in a position where I made an action that was unfortunate,” he said. “I think I overstepped a little bit in my response to the escalation in the game.
“I’m going to let FIBA do everything they need to do and come to the answers they see fit.”
Australia coach Andrej Lemanis said he feared the brawl would make it more difficult to call on Australian NBA players for international duty.
NBA teams are often reluctant to release players as it is for the two FIBA windows, in June-July and September, that fall in the league’s off-season.
Two current NBA players, Milwaukee Bucks pair Thon Maker and Matthew Dellavadova, were on Australia’s roster for the match. Maker is facing a possible FIBA suspension after he attempted numerous fly-kicks on Filipino opponents.
“Obviously that’s one of the concerns … what it means generally in terms of players willingness to participate and put their hand up,” Lemanis said.
“We’ll see. Hopefully there’s good learnings out of this for everybody in terms of the safety and security required around the game.”