Jerry West is the trusted voice of experience in the NBA — he’s a Top 50 player, a former coach, the GM that built the Showtime Lakers, drafted Kobe Bryant, and a guy who since he came in as consultant and owner in Golden State has seen that team take off. (He did a better job in Memphis than he gets credit for, but he was not exactly perfect there.)
West has seen it all — and he thinks Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich is as good as anyone he’s ever seen.
West was on ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd show Tuesday, part of his interview transcribed by Dan McCarney on the Express-News’ Spurs blog.
“I’ve never seen a better coach than Gregg Popovich. He does less than more. But having said that, when he gets less, he develops it into something really good. They have a great development program down there.
“For a coach coming into this league, if they don’t hire people who are really competent, to take these young kids who haven’t made it somewhere but have talent and build a system they can prosper in, but more importantly to get these kids shoot the ball. When they got Kawhi Leonard, he was not a shooter. It tells you the significance of what they’ve done internally to improve their team.”
The point about system and development is huge. In a league where you are drafting 19 and 20 year olds, the ability of a staff to develop talent means a lot, it’s how you sustain success. Remove the Heat’s one-off building method out of the equation and look at the NBA’s Final Four — the Spurs, Pacers and Thunder all have drafted well and developed well. They have found talented guys not in the top handful in the draft and developed them well. They’ve built wisely. It’s the model for every small and mid-market team.
But nobody may every do it as well as Popovich.