San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has created a reputation as a man of few words based on his interviews with various sideline reporters over the years.
But he had an undeniable friendship with TNT's Craig Sager, who died Thursday from leukemia.
Before the Spurs' game Thursday night against the Phoenix Suns, a somber Popovich spoke with the media about Sager, via Gerald Bourguet of Hoops Habit:
During Sager's illness, which lasted more than two years, Popovich was one of the on-air personality's most boisterous supporters, which was a surprising change of pace for the steely-eyed head coach who can make even the most seasoned reporter uneasy.
He often sent words of encouragement to Sager from sideline interviews, and it was easy to see the joy Pop felt when Sager returned to work in December 2015:
He’s just been such a genuine person who really does love the NBA and loves the game, and it comes through and you know that. Even though he does what he does design- and fashion-wise, you know it’s part of the shtick. But his questions are always sensible, they’re always answerable and he does it with fun. He does it with humor. I react to that very positively. So we have a good time together.
Many have appreciated Sager's sideline presence over the years, and it's clear Popovich is among those who will miss him.