Gregg Popovich is entering his 18th year as the San Antonio Spurs head coach.
Popovich’s longevity has partially been due to luck. The Spurs have drafted three Hall of Famers in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili, who have all been loyal to the Spurs.
But Popovich is also a brilliant tactician who has earned the trust and respect of players, which Michael Lee talks about in his piece on Pop for the Washington Post. Perhaps the most important part is how honest Popovich is with his players, he said:
“They are different. I just try to be as honest with them as I can. I just think blowing smoke at guys and trying to manipulate guys or trick guys into thinking this, that and the other, it doesn’t work. And it’s tiresome. You got to remember what you told somebody last week. And this week, I can’t do that because I did that, and now I got to do this. That doesn’t work. So if you’re just brutally honest with guys, when they do well, love them and touch them and praise them and if they do poorly, get on their [butt] and let them know it and let them know that you care. And if a player knows that you really care and believes that you can make it better, you got the guy for life.”
Tony Parker once recalled his early years with Popovich when Pop would make the rookie point guard cry. When the Spurs acquired Boris Diaw two seasons ago, Popovich told the press that Diaw had “never been in shape.” He once deactivated Tim Duncan for a game, citing the reasoning in the box score as “old.”
But as Pop says, being honest with players, riding them when they’re bad and praising them when they’re good, earns their trust and respect. Popovich tells Lee that Ginobili and Parker only re-signed their long-term contracts knowing Pop would still be the coach. His winning style of play and player management has helped made the Spurs the model franchise in, arguably, all professional sports.
For years, people have counted the Spurs out of championship contention because of their age, but each year they come back strong. With Popovich at the helm, it doesn’t look like that will change.
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