Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has a reputation of being difficult to deal with if you’re a member of the media, but a lot of that is situational.
There’s almost nothing to be gleaned from in-game interviews between quarters, for example, so Popovich treats those with the respect they deserve. Other times, he’s been known to ridicule reporters for asking less than creative questions, and I’ve personally seen him respond to a post-game query with nothing more than 20-30 seconds of uncomfortable silence.
But I’ve also seen Popovich be engaging when the mood is right, or when the right questions are being asked. Those things came together Tuesday before San Antonio’s win over the Cavaliers, when the coach spoke honestly about how he’s gotten his players to take ownership of the offense.
Q. How do you get players to take ownership of the offense? Is it a confidence thing?
Popovich: “That’s a good question. A lot depends on the competitiveness and the character of the player. Often times, I’ll appeal to that. Like, I can’t make every decision for you. I don’t have 14 timeouts. You guys got to get together and talk. You guys might see a mismatch that I don’t see. You guys need to communicate constantly — talk, talk, talk to each other about what’s going on on the court.
“I think that communication thing really helps them. It engenders a feeling that they can actually be in charge. I think competitive character people don’t want to be manipulated constantly to do what one individual wants them to do. It’s a great feeling when players get together and do things as a group. Whatever can be done to empower those people …
“Sometimes in timeouts I’ll say, ‘I’ve got nothing for you. What do you want me to do? We just turned it over six times. Everybody’s holding the ball. What else do you want me to do here? Figure it out.’ And I’ll get up and walk away. Because it’s true. There’s nothing else I can do for them. I can give them some bulls—, and act like I’m a coach or something, but it’s on them.
There’s more, and the entire Q + A is worth a read. What’s most interesting, however, is hearing one of the most well-respected coaches in the game explain that there’s only so much he can do, and sometimes, it’s up to the players themselves to figure things out.