Gregg Popovich has long been regarded as one of the most entertaining and respected coaches in the NBA. His matter-of-fact style of answering questions has continued to keep the media on its A-game when it comes to posing the correct questions in probing the coach’s thoughts on his team.
A four-time NBA Champion and graduate of the Air Force Academy, Pop expects his teams to play perfect basketball. It does not always happen, and when this occurs, you can expect a few memorable one-liners, such as a few located here:
“You have to make shots to win basketball games and we didn't do that. You also have to get back on defense, so it was a double-whammy.”
Most of the time, Pop is just simple and to the point. That’s his style. You see it all the time during sideline post-first quarter and pre-fourth quarter interviews that the media has awkwardly inserted (taking away time from coaches to coach their teams) when he answers questions rather simply, usually causing the interviewer to stumble a bit.
As said before, Pop demands great defense out of his teams. Even with the Spurs' incredible 33-6 start, he has gone on record saying he has not been happy with their defensive effort thus far. The man expects perfection and anything short of that just is not good enough in his eyes.
“Eliminating back-to-backs when you go in the wrong direction and lose time and go to bed at 4 in the morning for the second game is very difficult for teams, as we have learned. You just can't bring the juice for 48 minutes. It shows in the discipline on the court and the execution on the court. If it was possible to change the entire schedule for everybody to have fewer of those, the quality would improve, without a doubt.”
He’s got a point. Back-to-backs are absolute killers. Especially when you consider the fact that the team sometimes has to fly elsewhere to play another game the next day. However, changing the schedule is an impossibility, seeing that the season would easily stretch into July and possibly August if the NBA eliminated back-to-backs.
However, Pop is absolutely correct when he said that the quality of play would improve if the NBA did not allow any back-to-back games, since teams would definitely be more rested and prepared for their opponent on the second game of a back-to-back.
“We didn't send mariachi bands or birthday cards or breakfast in bed.”
Okay, I have no idea what this quote is about, but I just find it hilarious.
I have seen plenty of interviews with Pop and the way he toys with the questions he is given sometimes is just great to watch. I’m guessing this quote was about someone on the team that was injured and how the team was caring for him, but that might be a horrible guess.
Seriously, I just looked for the meaning behind this quote online for a long time and I could not find anything. It’s funny, and very “Pop”-like, so it deserves a spot here.
“And I look forward to seeing all of you in four or five years when we have the next Nellie retirement party in another town.”
While he has always been a very complimentary figure who has shown his appreciation for his players and opponents alike, Pop has never shied away from taking a jab at some of his rivals from time to time. He did it in 2008 when he voiced a strong negative opinion concerning the NBA’s lack of a “trade committee” after the Pau Gasol to L.A. deal was announced, and he does it here as well.
It is no secret that the Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs have a fierce rivalry that continues to get more dramatic as the years go on. When Don Nelson (“Nellie”) was coach in Dallas, the teams during that era experienced a fair amount of regular season success, but always failed to do anything in the playoffs.
So, what we have here is a joke against Nellie’s future state, in which retirement is omnipresent. I still do not think that he is completely done after his latest stint with the Golden State Warriors.
“We suck on 'D. Both individually and team-wise, we suck. We're pretty consistent that way. I don't know if I have an answer to that. If I did, we wouldn't suck quite so bad.”
Now, this sounds like something I would say from time to time, then a few hours later feel guilty for saying it once reality sets in. It is a little comforting to know that coaches sometimes break loose like this as well. When a coach, especially one of Pop’s caliber, rips off something like this to the media, it is usually meant to be heard by the team through someone other than him in order to fire them up.
Pop is a master motivator, as seen by the Spurs' collective unselfish approach to how they play the game (seen most impressively by Manu Ginobili’s willingness to come off the bench if necessary), so I do not think he truly believes this. Sometimes coaches say things just to get their team’s attention.
“I asked them if it wasn't too much trouble, if I wasn't being too pushy, if they could execute what we were trying to do. And if it didn't make them too angry, if they also wanted to play some defense on the other end, that would be great.”
Like the previous slide, it is obvious that Pop gets pissed off. Throwing in a little sarcasm definitely helps, but it is definitely no secret that Pop craves good defense from the teams he coaches. There was an instance a few nights ago when Tony Parker blew a defensive assignment on the Timberwolves’ Luke Ridnour and Pop benched him for the rest of the game.
Everybody loves Pop’s sarcastic sense of humor, but everyone, especially those on the Spurs, admire his intensity when it comes time to play defense.
“When I came down to St. Croix to see Timmy eight or nine years ago, nobody said a word to me (about driving on the left side), ... I got my rental car and I went out on the road, and I was gesticulating at like 10 people before I realized I was the jerk.”
Who wants Pop flipping you off as you pass him on the other side of the road? Not this guy. This definitely deserves a spot on the best quotes from Pop because, for one thing, it’s just plain funny, and it is also the perfect platform for what has become one of the most under-rated relationships in sports.
What Pop and Tim have accomplished in San Antonio is nothing short of remarkable, winning four titles and now making a strong drive to win one for the thumb. Both possess a good sense of humor and the father-son relationship similarities are very evident. This is quite the unique duo.
“In Phil's case, I was personally thrilled he came back, because I think it's huge for the league. When you think about what he's done and how many championships he's won, there's always drama when he comes back in.”
This is a very interesting quote, because the relationship between Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson and Pop has been anything but pleasant. Phil once claimed that the Spurs 99’ title should be marked with an asterisk due to the regular season being shortened because of a lockout, something that is just downright insulting if you are a Spurs fan. There has been a long debate over who is the best coach in the league, with these two names frequently being mentioned.
Instead of pulling another “Nellie” line, Pop decided to play it classy and show some respect to one of the best coaches in the league. However, I would be surprised if Pop was not a little irritated by Phil's look on the 99' title in particular, which he could perceive as Phil questioning his coaching ability. What other way could you take it if somebody said that your team did not truly earn that title?
“He found a realtor, looked at homes, bought one and furnished it, got a mortgage and the whole deal, ... Did it all when he was 19. I don't know if I could find my way out of town.”
Speaking obviously about Tony Parker, Pop’s self-deprecating humor has always been received well by everybody. Everybody forgets just how remarkable Tony Parker’s transition to the NBA really was. I was only 11 or so at the time, but I distinctly recall him lighting up Gary Payton in the playoffs, and Payton was no slouch.
Although one could question Parker’s maturity level right now, the fact that he was able to do all that, as Pop said, when he was only a teenager is irrefutably impressive.
“We would have two less championships here if it was not for Manu Ginobili. In my eyes, he’s the stud of the world”
This is such a great quote. Pop is absolutely correct in pointing out Manu’s impact on the Spurs. It’s been a joke amongst Spurs fans that Manu should have kept his hair style from 2005 when the Spurs beat the Pistons in the NBA Finals, where Manu was virtually unguardable. Seriously, how did the Spurs draft Manu with the second-to-last pick in the second round. That is insane.
He is one of the most unique players to ever play the game, and Popovich realizes this and has showed his appreciation for Ginobili on numerous occasions. Now, with Ginobili playing at an MVP-pace again this year, the 33-year-old is making it difficult to back up the claim that you get slower with age.