When dealing with the media, Popovich is not a tyrant like Bobby Knight, but fortunately, he's no tight-lipped federal agent like Bill Belichick either.
He tends to be sardonic more often than he is rude, although sometimes he achieves both. Simply put: Pop does not like dealing with the media.
After manning his post as the head coach of the Spurs for the past 17 seasons, Popovich has earned a considerable bit of latitude on how he does things. His team has won at least 50 games every season for the last 14 years—including the 66-game lockout-shortened season.
Get out of this man's way and let him do his job. Sadly for Pop, talking to the media is written in his contract.
ESPN's Lisa Salters captured the existential dread that comes with having to interview Popovich (via Marc Stein of ESPN.com).
It is very nerve-wracking. I never think of Pop as trying to make you look bad—you never take it personal because it's just Pop being Pop—but you just know he's going to be kind of snarky. So you're doing your job, but you're also thinking, 'I don't want to be embarrassed on live television.'
Apparently "Pop being Pop" strikes fear in the hearts of all sports journalists. And it's not that Popovich is a bad guy. He just loathes any distraction from his task of winning basketball games, and the media are a big distraction.
As ESPN play-by-play announcer Mike Breen put it, "He doesn't think a coach, in the middle of his game, should have to do that. And I guess [being difficult] is his little form of protest...In the pregame meetings, he gives such great answers. I can't wait to get into his office and you never want to leave" (per Stein).
Perhaps he's nice to Mike Breen, but there's ample video evidence displaying Popovich's bone-dry wit combined with a get-off-my-lawn cantankerousness to prove that he should be given a wide berth on game day.
But when the networks thrust a microphone and camera in his face, Pop's "little form of protest" becomes comedic gold.