The San Antonio Spurs are currently one of the great dynasties in pro sports. The team has appeared in the Western Conference Finals in each of the last three seasons, and nine of the last 16 dating back to 1999. In that span, they’ve made the NBA Finals five times, winning four Championships. And the one they lost went to seven games.
The reason for this success? Well yes, David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker certainly helped. But it’s coach Gregg Popovich who’s pulled everything together to make the Spurs contenders year in and year out.
It also just so happens that Gregg Popovich is one of the reasons why people don’t despise this team. People hate the Miami heat dynasty, but they don’t hate the Spurs because Tim Duncan is too nice (i.e. boring) to hate, and because Coach Pop is one of the most entertaining men in basketball.
Today, with the Spurs once again looking like championship contenders, we’re going to take a look at the greatest Popovich moments of all-time. If you’re not a big basketball fan and you don’t know much about this guy beyond his record, consider this a crash course.
Let's start off with the most recent classic Pop moment. And to understand it, you need some context.
You see, before the start of the 2014 Western Conference Finals, Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka was labeled "out for the season" after suffering a severe ankle sprain. Then he came back in Game 3 and helped the Thunder to a 106-97 victory. It was a genuine basketball miracle!
Gregg Popovich wasn't downtrodden after the loss, however. Instead, he kept things pretty light by referencing Ibaka's miraculous healing when somebody asked him about Manu Ginobili's status for the next game.
And this is why I love this man.
15. No Manu
Gregg Popovich is the most difficult in-game interview in all of sports. However, he didn't just jump all over ESPN's Doris Burke during the 2013 NBA Finals. He knows that you have to establish a rapport with somebody before tearing them a new one on national TV. So in Game 1, much to everyone's surprise, he gave her two straightforward answers to let her get warmed up. Then, in Game 3, he went on the attack.
Why give a made up, clichéd answer when you can just tell the truth?
14. He’d Have to Kill Her
If you didn't know Gregg Popovich's M.O. when dealing with the media, you might think he's a gigantic asshole. However, in case you couldn't tell reporters love him from the way they always crack up when he talks, you could certainly tell by the way he talks to the kid in this clip. He knows you can't tease a kid the way you would tease an adult, so he changed gears on the fly.
13. Mentoring a Young Reporter
What does "I want some nasty" mean? Well, I'd say there are a lot of things it could mean. But in this case, he meant play with more intensity.
Obviously, this became a t-shirt.
12. Pops Wants Some Nasty
This one has a little bit of everything—uniquely phrased truth bombs, epic sarcasm, insightful media commentary, moments of genuine candor. What other coach in pro sports today is this awesome?
11. Coaches Are Sick Puppies
He's got a good point. I've never given anyone I hate amazing barbecue.
10. On Cuban Hating the Spurs
Gregg Popovich didn't invent the famous "Hack-a-Shaq" strategy, but he made so much use of it in the 2008 postseason that Shaq called it "a coward move."
How did Popovich respond? Well, in the very first game of the following season, he had Michael Finley foul Shaq five seconds into the game as a joke. Which is awesome.
9. Pops Trolls Shaq
Of all the media members who interview Gregg Popovich on a regular basis, nobody gets the "Full Pop" like Craig Sager. The two of them have a very special relationship. I mean, here you have Popovich answering two questions from Sager with four words. It's amazing.
8. Master of Brevity
Sometimes Sager get's brevity. Sometimes he get's unabashed honesty. But he always gets something.
7. Sager Stumps the Coach
In this case Sager got incredulity, as Popovich went all Allen Iverson on him.
6. The PRESEASON?
Here we have David Aldridge learning that you need to pick your words pretty carefully with Gregg Popovich.
The irony, though, is that this is probably the longest response anyone has ever received from Pop in an in-game interview.
5. On Happiness
Pop wouldn't divulge any top secret intelligence to Doris Burke. I guess he just thinks David Aldridge is more trustworthy—which is interesting, because I don't trust anybody with a mustache.
4. Top Secret
Jeff Van Gundy admitted he was terrified of Coach Pop and got a hug.
This, obviously, should serve as a template for all Popovich interviews going forward.
3. Overmatched Jeff Van Gundy
The NBA mandates coaches answer two questions from TV reporters during the game, and Pop obeys the letter of the law.
Forget that at your own peril.
2. Pops v. Barkley
Gregg Popovich is a smart dude who realizes how absurd it is that full-grown adults get paid to ask him brutally stupid questions that even they know are brutally stupid. So he has fun with the whole thing, and it's usually hilarious.
However, earlier this spring, when Craig Sager announced he wouldn't be covering the NBA postseason while getting treatment for cancer, TNT got his son, Craig Jr., to interview Popovich.
The result was pretty awesome.
1. The Interview with Sager Jr.
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