Some day, thousands of years from now, a future race of humanoids unearthing our long-buried civilization will happen upon a jewel case containing a DVD of in-game interviews with San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.
After a few clips, these people will inevitably come to the conclusion that whatever game is being played in the background, this pocked, gray-haired man—who never, ever smiles—must really, really hate it.
They’d be wrong, of course. After all, Pop is nothing if not a master of his own shtick. During Wednesday’s 103-90 win over the visiting Portland Trail Blazers, The Snarky One added to his already unrivaled canon of dismissive comedy with this bit, which he unloaded on ESPN’s J.A. Adande. (Tip of the hat to Sean Highkin of For the Win.)
I’d offer it would be quite amazing if his tombstone includes nothing more than “Play well”—written in Comic Sans, just because—but the thought of Pop being no longer amongst the living is just about one of the saddest things I can imagine.
He might come off as hardheaded and exacting, but Pop’s coaching style—which, it should be noted, has garnered the Spurs franchise four championship banners since 1999—is decidedly laissez-faire.
In the wake of comments made by Pop suggesting he’ll often tell his players “I’ve got nothing” during timeouts, Yahoo! Sports’ Eric Freeman did a splendid job of unpacking this dueling narrative.
Popovich is known as a pragmatist, which often gets expressed as a penchant for cutting out of the unnecessary and focusing only on what directly leads to a win. In this case, though, that focus on the useful has led him to treat his players like grown men with their own emotional and professional needs, not models to be molded to his particular needs. By realizing that he only has so much control over what happens on the court, Popovich has reached the reasonable conclusion that he must make his players especially confident that they can accomplish their goals without much outside help.
Indeed, you’d be hard-pressed to find any coach—anywhere, at any level—who fits the description of a renaissance man better than Popovich. Food, wine, literature, history, the list goes on: As this Sports Illustrated profile highlights, there’s not much that doesn’t interest this one-time Air Force cadet.
Which is part of what makes Pop’s sideline interviews so fascinating. You don’t know if he’s putting on airs, playing a role or genuinely despises the whole dog and pony show altogether.
So long as he keeps cranking out the hits, we shouldn’t care which one it is.