Coaching in the NBA is a tough business. Every decision—right or wrong, success or failure—is attended by its own set of concerns and emotions.
Just ask Gregg Popovich. The longtime San Antonio Spurs overlord, who was named the league's Coach of the Year for a third time in 2013-14, still feels remorse about moving Manu Ginobili to the bench.
Seven years after the fact. As he told Project Spurs' Jesse Blanchard:
"I came to the decision 7 yrs ago." Pop on moving Manu to bench. "I've always felt guilty about it, but I do it anyways."— Jesse Blanchard (@blanchardJRB) May 8, 2014
Guilt or no, the move's worked out pretty well for everyone involved. The Spurs won their fourth championship in 2007, mere months after Popovich moved the wily Argentine out of the starting lineup in a prosperous attempt to ignite his second unit. They came within a Ray Allen miracle of snagging a fifth Larry O'Brien Trophy last spring, though Pop moved Ginobili back into the starting five for the last three games of the 2013 NBA Finals against the Miami Heat.
To be sure, Ginobili's gotten more out of the arrangement than championship rings and deep playoff runs. He finished second in the running for Sixth Man of the Year in 2006-07 and took home the award in 2007-08—his first as a full-time reserve—while posting career-highs in points (19.5), rebounds (4.8), assists (4.5), free-throw attempts (6.0) and minutes (31.1).
Since then, Ginobili has ranked as one of the top five vote-getters in Sixth Man balloting three times, including a third-place finish in this year's pageant.
At this point, there would seem to be little need for the Spurs to use Ginobili in anything but his long-running capacity as Tony Parker's backcourt sidekick/de facto backup. Ginobili averaged 15.8 points, 4.6 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 2.0 steals through the Spurs' first eight games of the postseason, including three performances of 20 points or more. He scored just two points and didn't hit a single field goal in 18.5 minutes of play during Game 1 of San Antonio's second round, though the Spurs had little trouble dispatching the Portland Trail Blazers, 116-92.
The Blazers can only hope Ginobili doesn't explode at their expense in this series, lest the job ahead of Portland head coach Terry Stotts become any more daunting than it already is.
Or, conversely, any "easier" than it's been for Pop, thanks in no small part to the tremendous sixth man that Ginobili has been for the better part of a decade.
Twitter: where Ginobili's antics will never go unappreciated.