Tag: Gregg Popovich

Gregg Popovich

Report: Popovich “unquestionably No. 1 choice” to be next USA coach


Jerry Colangelo — the USA Basketball chairman and ultimate decision maker on who replaces Mike Krzyzewski as the Team USA coach —  was on SiriusXM NBA Radio Tuesday and said this about who will land that job:

“Odds are that it will be a professional coach.”

The smart money has long been on the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich to be the man. While any decision on the next USA basketball coach is a year away (at least), the feeling is Popovich will get the job, reports Ken Berger at CBSSports.com.

The Spurs’ five-time champion coach is “clearly, unquestionably the No. 1 choice,” according to a person involved in the coaching business. “There really is no second place.” Not only is he the most accomplished and respected current NBA coach, but Pop also checks several other boxes that Krzyzewski and Colangelo will no doubt consider in identifying possible successors. (Yes, both men will have most, if not all the say in who gets this gig.)

For example, Krzyzewski told ESPN that he believes it would be a plus for his successor to have international coaching experience. Popovich does that one better; he has international espionage experience as a former Air Force intelligence officer! He also has served as a Team USA assistant and has international experience as a player.

There are only a handful of guys who can be considered for that job because that coach needs to be someone elite players are willing to play for during their off-season. Also, he needs to be able to rise above the petty politics of agents and shoe companies lobbying for certain players. Popovich certainly qualifies (John Calipari, not so much).

Around the NBA, there is a sense that they would like to see an NBA coach in that seat. If it’s not Popovich, Doc Rivers is a name I have heard mentioned, but in this report Berger says his star has faded a little with USA Basketball. It is possible someone like Billy Donovan or Brad Stevens could rise to that position, but they are not there yet.

This should be Popovich’s job, there isn’t another choice nearly as good.

Gregg Popovich talks character he seeks in Spurs’ players

Gregg Popovich
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It is one of the perpetually-recurring phrases you hear when people are speaking about the Spurs — they have players of high character.

What does that even mean exactly? In practice, different people define character differently, and how you apply that to a basketball (or any sports) team is an entirely unique definition.

How does Gregg Popovich define it? If there’s one thing you should read today, it should be Popovich and former Air Force man and NFL player Chad Hennings talking character in the book Forces of Character, an excerpt of that conversation has been posted over at Hoopshype.

Here are some great lines from Popovich, starting with players needing a sense of humor.

Having a sense of humor is huge to me and to our staff because I think if people can’t be self-deprecating or laugh at themselves or enjoy a funny situation, they have a hard time giving themselves to the group. You look at a guy like Tim Duncan. He never changes his expression but he can hit you with some of the best wise-ass comments in the world. I can be in a huddle, laying into him about his rebounding, saying to him, “Are you gonna get a rebound tonight or what? You haven’t done anything.” Then on the way out of the huddle, he’ll say, “Hey, Pop.” I’ll say, “Yeah.” He’ll say, “Thanks for the encouragement,” and walk back on the court. He’s being facetious, but nobody sees things like that. I think when a player has that ability and has respect it’s a good thing.

On what he looks for talking to players before the draft (or in free agency):

Being able to enjoy someone else’s success is a huge thing. If I’m interviewing a young guy and he’s saying things like, “I should have been picked All-American but they picked Johnny instead of me,” or they say stuff like, “My coach should have played me more; he didn’t really help me,” I’m not taking that kid because he will be a problem one way or another. I know he will be a problem. At some point he’ll start to think he’s not playing enough minutes, or his parents are going to wonder why he’s not playing, or his agent’s going to call too much. I don’t need that stuff. I’ve got more important things to do. I’ll find somebody else, even if they have less ability, as long as they don’t have that character trait.

How he treats his star players like Tim Duncan and Tony Parker:

Speaking to that, the other thing I’ll do in practice on a regular basis when we run drills, is I’ll purposely get on the big boys the most. Duncan, Parker, and Manu Ginobili will catch more hell from me than anybody else out there. You know the obvious effect of that. If you do that and they respond in the right way, everyone else follows suit. The worst thing you can do is let it go when someone has been egregious in some sort of way. The young kids see that and you lose respect and the fiber of your team gets frayed a bit. I think it has to be that way. They have to be willing to set that example and take that hit so everybody else will fall in line. It’s a big thing for us and that’s how we do it.

Go read the entire story. Or, buy the book.

Gregg Popovich reiterates he’ll coach past when Tim Duncan retires

Gregg Popovich

As he always seems to do, Tim Duncan is flying under the radar. When you talk about all-time greats, lock future Hall of Famers who may be playing their final season this go around, the conversation focuses out West on Kobe Bryant (who doesn’t know what he is going to do). This could be Duncan’s final season as well, he’s not sure, but it’s not drawing the same spotlight.

Whether Duncan (and Manu Ginobili) go or not, Gregg Popovich is staying.

He’s said that before, and after just recruiting LaMarcus Aldridge into the fold Pop isn’t going to just bolt, he told ESPN’s Sage Steele in an interview (hat tip SI):

“Signing LaMarcus [Aldridge], I had to make a commitment,” Popovich said. “I couldn’t say, ‘LaMarcus, we would love to sign you, see you later.’ So I committed to those guys and I committed to LaMarcus. So, I’ve got to fulfill my promise.”

Popovich has four seasons left on his contract that he said he would coach through the end of the deal — much to the delight of sideline reporters everywhere.

The Spurs have set themselves up beautifully to transition to a post-Duncan world, in part through smart front office work and in part because Duncan took far less money ($10 million this season) than he could have demanded to give his franchise flexibility.

As Duncan fades away, this will be Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard‘s team. Tony Parker will hang around a few more years (although his skills are fading). They will remain a powerhouse, Popovich will be there to make sure of that.

Spurs reset franchise for post Tim Duncan life in one impressive week


This coming season, the San Antonio Spurs are going to be a force to be reckoned with: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, Boris Diaw, Patty Mills and the core that was a legitimate title contender last season, and now they’ve added the 20-and-10 talents of LaMarcus Aldridge. Plus the Spurs are not done, they are in the mix for David West and other quality role players. They will be as good as anyone, serious contenders to win another Larry O’Brien trophy.

That’s not even the most impressive part of what the Spurs did this summer.

In one week, San Antonio has ensured that when Tim Duncan walks away — very possibly after next season — the Spurs will remain at the top of the West for at least the next four years.

The Spurs will keep being the Spurs.

Of course, it didn’t all happen in just one week. This started June 23, 2011, the night of the NBA Draft when the Spurs shipped out George Hill — a good point guard and a player Gregg Popovich was very fond of — for the rights to Kawhi Leonard. It was a gamble, but the Spurs saw the potential in the long, athletic, big-handed Leonard to bring them defense and scoring from the wing they had not been getting.

This week the Spurs secured that promise — they locked Leonard up to a five-year, $90 million max contract extension. Leonard is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in the NBA and a former Finals MVP, plus he brought 16.5 points and 7.2 rebounds a game last season, with an efficient true shooting percentage of 56.2 percent. He is a franchise cornerstone piece on the wings.

Aldridge gives them that in the paint for the next four years — when Duncan steps away Aldridge slides right into that slot.

Like Duncan, Aldridge has good footwork and moves in the post, but he will kill you from the midrange. (Yes the midrange jumper is going out of fashion in the NBA, but like the stolen base in baseball it’s a good strategy if you hit a high-enough percentage and Aldridge shot an excellent 44 percent from 16 feet out to the arc last season).

Like Duncan, Aldridge is a good defender (not as good as peak Duncan, but good). And like Duncan, he is underrated for his toughness — he was supposed to have surgery on his thumb last season but came back to play out the season because he thought the Trail Blazers could contend.

Just as happened in 2011 with the Leonard trade, credit Popovich for knowing what needed to be done. Popovich is no recruiter by choice, but when Aldrige was on the fence, he came back out to Los Angeles for a second lunch to talk specifics with the big man. Aldridge had more questions, pressed for details, and liked what he heard, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Aldridge and Leonard are the core for the next four years, but as always the Spurs will have quality talent at below-market prices around them.

Danny Green is as good a “3&D” guy as there is in the NBA right now and when you look at what the others in that class got — DeMarre Carroll was given $60 million from Toronto — the Spurs this week re-signed Green at a steal of four years, $45 million.

Then there is Tony Parker, who could have made more than the $13.4 million he will make this year but is locked in now for three more seasons at a price that will be a bargain as the salary cap spikes. Boris Diaw will make $22 million over the next three years, but the next two years of his deal are not fully guaranteed if the Spurs want to make a move. Patty Mills is going to make just a little over $7 million total the next two seasons.

Plus, Popovich plans to stick around for a little while.

All of which is to say, the Spurs didn’t just reload this week to make one more run at a sixth ring for Tim Duncan.

This week the Spurs set themselves up to contend for titles long after Duncan has retired to spend more time at his custom auto shop.

The Spurs are going to just keep going on, being the San Antonio Spurs

Gregg Popovich’s main adjustment: Hope his guys just shoot better

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Two

LOS ANGELES — Gregg Popovich made adjustments to how his Spurs defended and attacked the Clippers between Games 1 and 2 of what is now a tied series 1-1 heading to San Antonio for Game 3 Friday.

For example, he tweaked how they defended that double high pick-and-roll the Clippers have gone heavily to (and still are having success with despite the adjustments). On offense, you see the Spurs using a lot of what they did against Miami in the Finals last year (because the Clippers’ defense is similar), coming off the high pick then passing back to the middle of the floor.

But his main adjustment — hope his guys just shot better.

Seriously. For all the talk of an Xs and Os chess match, Popovich said before Game 2 that the real key was just that the Spurs do what they do best better than in Game 1.

“It always gets overplayed, when you lose you need to make an adjustment or two, and if you win you just go with the flow,” Popovich said. “You have to do what you do well. For instance, we can change pick-and-roll defense and do something different on Blake (Griffin), but I’m not sure that’s going to make us shoot better. We would like to shoot better tonight, we’d like to actually get back in transition D like it mattered. So if you do that it’s got nothing to do with Os and Xs and strategy things that you do. You’ve got to get back on defense or you’re in trouble. You’ve got to make shots or you’re in trouble. You can’t turn it over or you’re in trouble. Don’t do those things and the adjustments don’t mean a whole lot. We’ll make adjustments, so you guys think I’m doing something, but I’m hoping we do that stuff better.”

They did.

The Spurs shot 36.6 percent in Game 1, 46.2 percent in Game 2. Their eFG% (which accounts for the bump from made threes) jumped from 41.9 percent to 50.5 percent. The Spurs adjustments and ball movement got them seven more uncontested looks in Game 2 (40 to 33) and they hit a higher percentage of them (45 percent to 39.4 percent). The Spurs also did a much better job of getting back in transition and taking away some of the Clippers’ easy buckets.

This isn’t just a sound bite for Popovich. Doing what they do better was a core part of his message to the team. Look at what Patty Mills said after the Spurs Game 2 win.

“That was a game of grit, and grind and competitiveness,” Mills said. “We showed competitiveness at the toughest times, which is good. We lacked that in the first game so we knew that before any Xs and Os in this game we needed to show we could come out and compete for 48 minutes — and even more tonight.”

Doc Rivers and Popovich will both make adjustments heading into Game 3, and those tweaks will have an impact on the outcome.

But so will the answer to this simple question: Which team can do what it does best, better?