Speaking with ESPN The Magazine's Seth Wickersham, Coach Pop had no qualms about complimenting the work ethic of foreign kids at the expense of American kids:
The Spurs, of course, are not in the business of worrying about the demands on a student-athlete's time and saw it as a plus that guys like Ginobili and Parker had been playing club basketball since they were teenagers, schooled by accredited coaches, the 10,000-hour rule brought to the hardwood. Consider Pop's brutal assessment that foreign players are "fundamentally harder working than most American kids," and it's no wonder the Spurs want to avoid the fate of so many NBA teams, which are, as Buford says, "the end of the road for the developmental habits that are built in the less-structured environment in the U.S."
Anyone who is surprised by Popovich's train of thought hasn't followed him too closely over the years. He's always had an affinity for foreign athletes and apparently their work ethic.
Nine of the San Antonio Spurs' 15 players from this season grew up and played overseas—an NBA record, according to Wickersham. Pop's unwavering belief that American athletes develop a misplaced sense of entitlement has led him to seek talent elsewhere, outside the country, where more diligent talent awaits.
This belief isn't something new, either. Wickersham writes that Pop often chartered into what was considered unknown or worthless territory before anyone else did, looking for stars in a pool of players that were considered incapable.
A lack of defense and a refusal to learn the English language were the stigmas that once plagued, and to an extent still do, anyone who played outside of the United States.
Led by Popovich, the Spurs have become essential contrarians, seeing the world through a completely conflicting lens.
In the article, San Antonio general manager R.C. Buford has just finished perusing one of his own, the headline of which reads: "The Entitlement Culture of Elite HS Hoops."
Within the piece, author Dave Telep of ESPN discusses how privileged American basketball players have become. Wide-ranging tales of athletes complaining about the food being served at a Ritz to what Telep describes as, "the slow and steady crumble of American grassroots basketball: loafing, lousy fundamentals, a pervasive disinterest from players in showcasing anything but themselves," dominate the content.
The conclusions Popovich and the Spurs have drawn are thus direct and brutal. Playing their way towards a fifth championship of the Coach Pop era, they make no apologies.
Whatever they're thinking, whatever they're doing, it's working.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!