Last night, the San Antonio Spurs were massacred 126-99 in game one of their Western Conference semifinals matchup against the Houston Rockets.
During his post game presser, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was not pleased!
Reporter: “Pop there’s nothing for us to ask except to get your take on what the heck just happened.”
Popovich: “We lost. They won. And they played better.”
The reporter followed up with another question and Popovich had a more complete answer about what exactly went wrong in the game (“sure we competed but I don’t think we executed”).
Timing is everything in the art of interviewing. It’s listening, it’s research and more importantly it is about being a person.
Real G’s do real things and Coach Pop is about as genuine as it gets! That said, get ready for a genuine response.
I realized that first hand last year, when I chatted with Coach Popovich about leadership.
In high school, I read The Autobiography of Douglas McArthur. General MacArthur commanded the United States through the Southwest Pacific in World War II. The autobiography thoroughly highlighted MacArthur’s military career, his personal life and the battles during World War II. MacArthur was one of only five men promoted to the five-star rank of General of the Army during World War II. What left an indelible mark on me while reading MacArthur’s book was his dedication to leadership, his constant examples that he left to his subordinates of his character and his emphasis on behaving in a manner in which peoplewould want to follow him.
While reading that autobiography back in high school, MacArthur reminded me so much of Popovich. Popovich, himself spent five years in the service in the United States Air Force.
Popovich’s dad wasn’t in the service, but when you ask the Spurs coach who his models for leadership were. His answer might surprise you.“I try not to idolize too many people,” Popovich told me.
Whoa! That’s real!
”I think that all idols have feet of clay and I think that especially in our country, we tend to mythologize people. So I look to people that I’ve known personally, whether that’s a coach or teacher, a relative; somebody that I respect because I know them. But people who I don’t know that have been mythologized, I don’t know them much. At the top of my head, Thomas Jefferson was a great guy; he was a slave owner. You can make that similar analogy with a lot of other people who have been idolized. They all have flaws. So I go for people that I know.”
After last night’s she-lacking by the Rockets, some folks were ready to write the Spurs off. The Rockets after all, are very talented: James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, Patrick Beverly and Lou Williams are some of the names on that roster. Credit is due where credit is due!
Malik Rose won two championships with Popovich in 1999 and 2003. Now the Atlanta Hawks’ manager of basketball operations, Rose once told me about Pop: “He’s not afraid to say what he believes and stand by it. He genuinely cares about his players. It’s more than basketball.”
Coach Pop is no slouch. He is this generation’s Phil Jackson because he wins and has gained the respect of his players and players on opposing teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James, New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony, Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul. Coach Pop has seemlessly been able to navigate the passing of the torch of players during his career, as well.
David Robinson retired in 2003 and passed the torch to Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. Duncan retired and now the keys are in the hands of Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. It is not likely that the Spurs will go down like they did last night against the Rockets. The team is not chopped liver. But it will take defensive adjustments and players not reacting like Dewayne Dedmon did to Nene last night.
In the meantime, let’s watch Pop continue to be Pop and make us reporters search for the next question.