The San Antonio Spurs received a bundle of praise for winning the 2014 NBA Finals, particularly when they were just one year removed from losing in heartbreaking fashion in 2013. People latched onto their redemption from the year before.
Gregg Popovich told ESPN’s J.A. Adande, that he didn’t think any more of his team when they won the Finals in 2014 than when they lost in 2013. He said he was “just as proud” of them for the way they fought in Game 7 in 2013 as when they won in five games last June.
Popovich went on to explain how he handles adversity, and how he teaches his players to handle failure:
“In today’s world, if you don’t win the whole thing, whether it’s football or basketball, or this and that, people have a tendency to paint you as a loser or act like you just robbed the cookie jar. Well that’s baloney.
“It didn’t happen for us, but is everything going to go your way in life? You think you’re on the Earth and everything you want to happen to you is going to happen to you positively? The measure of who we are is how we react to something that doesn’t go our way.”
When the Spurs lost in 2013, Popovich said he was quick to keep his team from blaming bad luck, telling them, “You’re in charge of yourself. There are always things you can do better.” The team spent hours reviewing every play from Games 6 and 7 of the 2013 Finals and learning what they could have done better to have won the championship.
Popovich explained how he and the Spurs often talk about entitlement and appreciating their opportunity to play in the NBA.
“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.
“But I think a lot of people forget that. They think that they’re entitled to what they have… So we talk about those things all the time. You have no excuse not to work your best. 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.”
It’s deep stuff from Popovich, who is often seen acting grouchy on the court or during interview. However, behind that character, he’s reached the peak of NBA coaching, putting games into much bigger contexts to improve his players’ outlook on life.
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