Gregg Popovich Reveals Timeout Secret: 'I've Got Nothing'

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 6, 2014

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, right, talks with Tony Parker (9) in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

It turns out skittish sideline reporters aren't the only ones getting San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich's less-is-more treatment.

Notoriously terse in his dealings with the media, the coach is apparently just as selective with his sideline chatter to his team.

There's a method to this madness, an empowerment bestowed upon his players to build character and confidence. Still, it's a bit jarring to hear the coach of 14 (and counting) consecutive 50-win teams admit to practicing the silent treatment during some of his timeouts, via Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:

Sometimes in timeouts I’ll say, ‘I’ve got nothing for you. What do you want me to do? We just turned it over six times. Everybody’s holding the ball. What else do you want me to do here? Figure it out.’ And I’ll get up and walk away.

Why would someone with four championship rings in his collection find himself at a loss for words?

"Because it’s true," he explained. "There’s nothing else I can do for them. I can give them some bulls—, and act like I’m a coach or something, but it’s on them."

Dec 18, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich (center) talks to his players during a time out in the second half against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center. The Spurs defeated the Suns 108-101. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Re
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

There's a time for in-game strategy, but coaches earn a big chunk of their paychecks during times of practice and preparation. Timeouts can offer some badly needed reminders, but there are only so many ways to deliver the same message.

Popovich's veteran-laden roster understands what it needs to do to compete every night and contend for something of significance at season's end. Giving them a voice and placing some power in their hands personalizes what he's already taught them, increasing their individual investment in what they're trying to accomplish collectively.

"I think competitive character people don’t want to be manipulated constantly to do what one individual wants them to do," Popovich said. "It’s a great feeling when players get together and do things as a group."

It's just another way Popovich has mastered the art of coaching.

CLEVELAND - JUNE 14:  (L-R) Head coach Gregg Popovich and Finals MVP Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs pose for a photo with the Larry O'Brien Championship trophy after they won the 2007 NBA Championship with their 83-82 win against the Cleveland Ca
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

It's also an intriguing look at what exactly the profession entails.

"What’s...interesting...is hearing one of the most well-respected coaches in the game explain that there’s only so much he can do, and sometimes, it’s up to the players themselves to figure things out," NBC Sports' Kurt Helin observed.

No matter who's delivering the message, though, it seems to be having its intended impact.

The Spurs have picked up seven wins in their last eight games, most recently a 122-101 dismantling of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday that saw San Antonio toss out 39 assists on 43 made field goals.

In other words, great feelings aren't the only positives that can come out of 13 individuals acting as one.