Chip Engelland's return to Philippines at FIBA World Cup brings back fond memories and chance to reunite

With the legendary status he holds in the Philippines, Chip Engelland has enjoyed his return to the country with United States at the ongoing FIBA World Cup 2023. Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Arthur 'Chip' Engelland last played an official basketball game in the Philippines over 38 years ago and before this year had only been back in the country once, but in many ways it's like he never really left.

In town as the shooting coach of Team USA for FIBA World Cup 2023, Engelland says he's not surprised that fans here still recognize him because even in the United States, he still gets stopped in the street by Filipinos.

"That's what happens in the States, so it definitely happens here as well," Engelland told ESPN shortly before Team USA's practice on Thursday.

"I get recognized in the States, considering I haven't shot a basketball here for almost 40 years. It's incredible how great the fans are and how good everybody is.

"I was just in Las Vegas and ran into two or three. We sit and chat and talk about the PBA and the country we miss."

It's likely because he left an indelible mark on Philippine basketball.

With due respect to Bogs Adornado, Engelland is perhaps the best pure shooter to ever don a Philippines jersey.

He played in 76 games over three PBA conferences, averaging 27.5 points per game with a single-game career high of 60.

Engelland was part of the fabled Northern Consolidated Corporation (NCC) national pool of the 1980s that won the Williams Jones Cup in 1985. In the championship game against an American team that included future NBA players and coached by Gene Keady of Purdue, Engelland erupted for 43 points in an overtime win.

"The Jones Cup championship doesn't happen without Jeff Moore (and) Dennis Still," he said.

"We had a great all-around team and that's why we still stay in contact because it really was special. With Ron Jacobs at the helm, Mr. (Eduardo) Cojuangco the boss and Henry his brother as our team manager, it really was special."

After the EDSA Revolution of 1986 scuttled the NCC program, Engelland went back to the United States, where he played in several minor leagues.

He eventually transitioned to being a shooting coach, where one of his first clients was current US team coach Steve Kerr. He's also coached fellow Duke alumnus and NBA great Grant Hill, currently the USA Basketball Executive Director.

Engelland, who is now with the Oklahoma City Thunder after 17 years with the San Antonio Spurs, was last here in 2007 for a brief stay.

He's trying to reacquaint himself with the metropolis that he called home for nearly three years, as he revealed: "A lot of it I didn't recognize.

"I recognized the people and some of the streets but there's so many new buildings, I had to find some new landmarks to get around. But I'm enjoying my stay."

Engelland admits he hasn't been able to follow the games of Gilas Pilipinas given their busy schedule, saying: "I haven't gotten to see them much because we're in study for our games, but I know they've had some competitive games."

Next to Gilas, the United States has drawn the largest crowds at the tournament, and Engelland says the fan reaction is just like he remembers it.

"It's so fun. The fans respond, just like in the 80s," recalled Engelland. "They love good theater at the game, like a Sonny Jaworski. They also love great basketball.

"Every game is a really fun night for us, and I know that our players are embracing the culture of basketball. We leave our hotel, it's lined up and packed for the American players. I'm sure that's true for the other teams as well."

The old NCC crew is planning a reunion next week, once the tournament schedule isn't as hectic.

Engelland says he's looking forward to catching up with this old teammates, revealing: "Because Gilas has been playing every other night with the U.S., we have something planned next week.

"It hasn't happened yet. I've heard from them. We're going to connect. That's going to be Samboy Lim -- I'm going to see him privately. Allan Caidic, Franz Pumaren, Hector Calma -- a really good crew."

When told that Moore, another former naturalized player, is arriving on Friday, Engelland smiled before saying: "That was going to be the icing on the cake. One of the great teammates."