Gilas keeping door open for Fil-Am coaching trailblazer Mike Magpayo

Thousands of kilometers may separate head coach Mike Magpayo of UC Riverside and Gilas Pilipinas program director Tab Baldwin, nearly 12,000 to be exact, but the distance has not stopped both coaches from expressing mutual admiration.

Magpayo, the first Asian-American head coach in the history of US NCAA Division I, is fresh off his maiden season as shot-caller for the Highlanders where they went 14-8 overall (10-5 in the Big West Conference).

All throughout, he shared he was keeping tabs on another youth-laden squad - the Philippine national team preparing for three major FIBA competitions starting June.

And with all the promise Gilas has shown despite being bannered by cadets, the Fil-Am mentor was full of praises for Baldwin.

"I was lucky enough that I got to see coach Baldwin and the Gilas team practice many years ago and they left me inspired. I've always admired the team from afar here in the U.S. I root for the program very much and am impressed by what they've accomplished so far," Magpayo gushed in a message to ESPN5.com.

The two had already met back in 2016 when Magpayo was visiting his native land and Baldwin was head coach of the Philippine national team.

Now, the 41-year-old is trekking his own path and has just guided UC Riverside to its best-ever season. For that, he was accorded the Joe B. Hall Award, given to the best rookie head coach in US NCAA Div. I.

If an opportunity presents itself down the road, Magpayo said that he would be willing to help out the Gilas program.

Magpayo made it a point to add, though, that there are no discussions going on, let alone a decision being made. He simply wants to help out the program in any way he can.

"I was just saying how much I support them and root for them and want to only help in any way I can in the future when I'm called on to serve my family's homeland," he said.

Baldwin, on the other hand, appreciated Magpayo's desire of one day assisting Gilas and added that if and when that opportunity presents itself, the UC Riverside head coach would be welcomed with open arms.

"That's really great to hear and at some point an occasion may arise where this could become a reality. It is always a positive thing when a successful coach, like Mike is, supports and shows interest in the job we are doing with the national team program," he told ESPN5.com.