Gregg Popovich: The End of an Era?
The San Antonio Spurs played their last game of the season a few weeks ago. I wanted them to win, and not merely because I’ve been a fan for many years now. I know they didn’t have a hope of getting out of the first round of the playoffs this year. I just wanted to watch Gregg Popovich coach a few more games. I wanted to watch a few more ornery interviews.
This doesn’t make headlines often but he wears two hats – that of Coach as well as General Manager and President. These are conflicting roles; the GM builds with an eye on the future, whereas the Coach wants a winning team today. Others have tried to replicate his success by doing the same thing, but all have failed.
Coach Pop is one of the last old-school coaches that exist. He will not tolerate insubordination or clowns, no matter your stature as a player. This makes him difficult to deal with, but those that have stuck with him have learned the value of listening of listening to him. A lot of player don’t understand that he genuinely cares for players as people and not commodities, which is why he takes the liberties he does. If you dig, you will find countless stories of him doing things out of the goodness of his heart for people that you wouldn’t expect.
But that is the man. The Coach has long set values in the organisation that many have followed, with success. Look around the NBA and you will find someone who has either played, worked under, or worked with him, and carried the lessons he has taught them to other organisations to be successful.
Now that he has achieved the target of most wins by any metric, as well as that long-desired Olympic medal for his country, there really is nothing left for Popovich to prove, even to himself. His wife passed away a few years ago – and knowing Pop, that would have affected him a lot. He’s also getting on in years, although he looks and acts at least ten years younger than his 72 years.
There are reports that he is enjoying the challenge of coaching a young team that has played at the fastest pace in his career, but as with Tim Duncan before him, and David Robinson before him, Father Time remains undefeated.
If you don’t come back to coach next year, I want to say so long, Coach Pop. I have never met you, and I probably never will. But I am eternally grateful for the things you have taught me. If you do return and this article makes me look like an idiot, I’ll take it in exchange for seeing you on the sidelines at least 82 more times.