San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has long been vocal about realising there is a bigger world beyond sports.
He proved that again on Sunday prior to a loss to the New York Knicks when he was asked about how winning creates “stability” in an organisation.
The Spurs are seemingly the antithesis of the Knicks — consistently successful, unified, and organised off the floor, avoiding dramatic incidents like what has unfolded between the Knicks and Charles Oakley in the past week. Surely, this makes life easier for Popovich and his players.
However, Popovich explained that while winning is nice, it’s better to keep a bigger perspective.
“It’s easier to have a stable existence winning than losing, right? I talk to my good buddy [Philadelphia 76ers head coach] Brett Brown from time to time during the year. He’s the only human being I know on the face of the earth that can do what he’s done for these several years and still be, like, the most positive, teaching, upbeat guy I’ve ever seen. He’s like an anomaly. I couldn’t do that. I would have already been a basket case and doing something else. But I think in general, winning makes everything — the grass looks greener, the sky’s blue more often when you win a game than lose a game.
“It’s important in this business to know that it’s just your job. If you can get that into your head, win or lose, I think your players kinda learn that they can move on, too. Whether it’s a turnover in a game or two losses in a row, whatever it might be, you just move on. Because it’s your job but really not the most important, meaningful — important’s important, you gotta buy the groceries — but it’s not the most meaningful thing in your life. Whatever you believe in, your friends, your family, your kids, all that stuff, is way more important. I don’t think you can be on your deathbed and say, ‘Gosh, I wish we had not gotten knocked out in the second round in ’74 or ’89.’ I don’t think that’s gonna happen. So, if that’s not gonna happen, screw it, find something else to do to be excited about.”
It flies in the face of how winning is viewed in much of the sports world. Whereas many others view their sport as the thing in their life, placing a great importance on winning, Popovich views winning as a priority in his job, but not something that will make or break his life.
It’s not the first time Popovich has suggested such a philosophy. After the Spurs’ heartbreaking 2014 Finals loss to the Miami Heat, Popovich explained how he told his players to move on, saying it’s important to realise NBA players have an opportunity most people never have.
“Because you were born to these parents or this area geographically, or this situation, you deserve more than somebody else? … That’s the most false notion one can imagine. … You have no reason not to be thankful every day that you have the opportunity to come back from a defeat, because some people never even have the opportunity.”
After a playoff loss last season, Popovich told reporters, “NASA discovered all those habitable planets the other day. Did you guys see that? … Twelve hundred habitable planets. And then last night somebody lost a basketball game. Come on. Get over yourself.”
If the Spurs fail to win a championship again this season, it seems we won’t need to worry about how Popovich handles it.
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