While we’ve heard anecdotes of head coaches quizzing their players before, Gregg Popovich’s quizzes for the San Antonio Spurs are a little different.
Instead of X’s and O’s, Popovich asks his players about the world at large and global current affairs, according to Ben Cohen of the Wall Street Journal.
Popovich, who has helped build the Spurs into the model organisation with a culture that’s the envy of the NBA, believes that such quizzes creates chemistry on the floor and off of it.
He also thinks it grows players as people.
“I think it’s sad if a person’s whole self-image and self-worth is based in their job,” Popovich told Cohen. “Whether you’re a basketball player, a plumber, a doctor, a mailman or whatever you might be, why not try your best to live a more interesting life that includes other people, other cultures and different worlds?”
So, Popovich will spring random questions on the Spurs and they vary in subject. According to Cohen, he might ask players where they can find wombats, or in what country the city of Harar is located, or who were the early explorers in America. Pop has reportedly been quizzing his players on the world for years, but this year, he said he also enjoys bringing up political topics and sparking discussion amongst the players.
“It brings them together. There’s a purpose to it — and it’s fun for me,” he said.
Popovich also spoke about his passions beyond basketball, showing a side rarely seen in professional head coaches.
“If I just did basketball, I’d be bored to death. How much satisfaction can you get out of doing jump shots and teaching someone to deny in the passing lanes? OK, that’s cool, that’s my job, that’s how I earn my living, and I have a good living and I enjoy it. But I’m not a lifer. It doesn’t define me. If I win a game, I’m fine. If I lose a game, it hurts, but I’m fine real quick. It’s not that important.”
Popovich has also done other things to enhance the culture within the team. According to Cohen, he had players read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me” and showed them the film “The Birth of a Nation.” Last year, he took them to see “Hamilton” on Broadway.
The Spurs may no longer rule the NBA, but Popovich’s conventions are a big reason why every team still wants to be like them.
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