Beyond the Arc

by Ben Fiore

 

Gregg Popovich is my favorite head coach ever.  He is also undeniably one of, if not the most successful coaches in NBA history.  He is a 5 time champion coach from his runs in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014.  Not to mention beating LeBron James in multiple finals.  Pops is a mentor, a teacher, a leader and probably the best postgame interviewee of all time.  His sarcastic humor is top tier.  His demeanor is almost like Bill Billicheck if Bill had more of a personality and wasn’t an old stale asshole that looks like a butch lesbian who is still in a biker gang.  Pops is up there in talks with Wooden and Jackson for the greatest coach to ever hit the court in terms of coaching talent, but is no doubt the most recognized and respected coach by players everywhere.

Ole Gregg started his coaching career where he still is today, San Antonio, Texas.  He was an assistant with the team from 1988- 1995.  Since 1996 he has been the head coach of the spurs and through those 23 years it marks the longest tenure of any current coach with their team today.  Pops has NEVER had a team with a losing record, and has notched a playoff appearance in every season except 1.  He brought that city 5 champion banners to hang on the rafters, and single handedly is responsible for the shaping of 4 1/2 future hall of famers.  Tim Duncan was literally a SWIMMER his whole life until halfway through high school.  He made it to the NBA and Pop made him one of the greatest big men and players period to ever hold a ball.  Tim is a former MVP and credits Pop for all of his success.  Other players who award Pop that honor are Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, David Robinson, and (the 1/2) Kawhi Leonard.  Tony Parker is one of the most complete PG’s I’ve ever seen and Manu was an acrobatic sniper.  And for the beginning part of Kawhi’s career, Pop made him a no name into one of the most monstrous talents around.  It’s odd how two dry ass personalities such as Pop could have feuded so much, but maybe Kawhi’s robot laugh and Pops’ sarcastic insults dug too deep into each other.  Regardless, Pop is a player’s coach.  He can be your best friend and laugh and joke with you while also telling you what you need to hear constructively.  High profile players such as Vince Carter, Kobe, LeBron, Shaq and countless others have all marked Gregg as the coach they wish they could play for the most.

Commitment is another quality that makes Pop so admirable.  for 30 years he stayed in the city of San Antonio when he could have coached almost anywhere else especially after his success.  But  he has stuck with that team and never even though of leaving.  And believe me, I couldn’t do it.  I lived in San Antonio for 6 months, and that was about all of the dirty south I could handle.  Think about that.  Over LA, Boston, New York, or even Dallas, he stayed in the butt crack of America and those fans are eternally grateful.  No one ever had high hopes for that team, and Pops changed that culture.  When his wife passed away in April of last year, the whole city rallied around Pop and he said the city got him through that tragedy. He has clearly kept the Spurs in the hunt every single year while staying on a low profile under the radar as underdogs. He handles his business professionally, humbly, and sometimes comically…

My favorite part about what makes Pops such a stud is how he reacts to the media.  Some would call him a dick, but I consider him flat out honest.  The only reporter he ever liked or even tolerated was the late Craig Seager.  He would often joke at Craig’s bizzare style but always had plenty of laughs and friendship with him unlike how he has been with the rest of the media.  My favorite Pops quote of all time is when he was asked in game about what he said to the Spurs to turn their efforts around and he said “I asked them if it wasn’t too much trouble, if I wasn’t being too pushy, if they could execute what we were trying to do. And if it didn’t make them too angry, if they also wanted to play some defense on the other end, that would be great.”  Classic Pops.

He has posted a (1,223-561) career coaching record with a win percentage of .686%.  The other day, he was asked if he would coach next season, and he replied with “I don’t know the answer”.  Could this really be the end?  Honestly, as much as I don’t want to see it happen, I understand it.  The man is (hilariously) 69 years old, and has been in the league for 30 years.  He has already cemented his name in the record books and would go out on top at any time he chose to leave.  He is an Adonis of the coaching realm and in my opinion the goat.  So if this is it… Pop you will be missed, and we love ya you old bastard.

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Written by benfiore

NBA writer of Beyond the Arc. Employee, podcast host and writer for Thoughts From the Bench.

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