Popovich believes foreign coaches can thrive in NBA — if they get a chance

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Just a quick glance down the Spurs roster — Tony Parker, Nando De Colo and Boris Diaw from France; Manu Ginobili from Argentina; Marco Belinelli from Italy; Tiago Splitter from Brazil; Patty Mills from Australia — and you know Gregg Popovich and the Spurs brain trust believes some foreign coaches are getting it right.

From there, how big a leap is it to one or more of coaches leading a team in the NBA?

While there are still some NBA decision makers who don’t believe a European coach’s style of play or work, or that he would struggle to relate to American players, Popovich is not among them. Look at what he told the Express-News’s Spurs blog.

“A lot of guys could be coaching in our league,” he said. “Basketball has become an international sport. The coaches have improved all over the world, just like players have. There are good coaches and good players no matter where one might look.”

This comes up as the Spurs squeaked out a 95-93 win over CSKA Moscow Wednesday, a team coached by the legendary Ettore Messina. He came as close as any foreign coach to landing an American head coaching job when he spent a season as an assistant with the Lakers. But that stay lasted just one season.

Messina thinks it will be a “long time” before someone else gets a chance. Popovich thinks it depends on the organization.

Said Popovich, “”A team just has to have guts.”

Guts and the right management, looking to bring in the right players to fit the system. Give a top European coach a team with talent — say the Thunder or Heat or Spurs — and they could win, if they can get buy in from the players. If the respect is there. The right coach can earn that.

Of course, the real fast track for a foreign coach who wants an American gig would be to become one of Popovich’s assistants — Jacque Vaughn, Mike Budenholzer and Brett Brown all got head coaching jobs in the last two years. The Popovich stamp of approval is like a Golden Ticket into Willy Wonka’s factory.