There is very little doubt that San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is currently the best coach in the NBA; in fact, he is likely one of the greatest coaches of all time. In his seventeen seasons as a head-coach in the NBA, Popovich has won four titles and is only one of two head coaches to win over 100 playoffs in that time. As his Spurs take the floor vs. the Miami Heat tonight in game one of the 2013 NBA Finals, it’s Popovich that will be the difference maker in the series, as the Spurs and Popovich attempt to capture their fifth NBA championship crown.
It could be argued that Pop was hired into the perfect coaching situation. After all, early in his head-coaching career, he had players such as David Robinson and Tim Duncan on the roster. It took him just two seasons to coach San Antonio to their first ever NBA title, and the following season, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker joined the fold.
Popovich certainly hasn’t had a shortage of talent since he’s been in the league, however there is no denying that he was able to maximize the talent he was given, creating a dynasty over the next nearly two-decades.
Legendary coach Larry Brown, whom Popovich considers to be his mentor, once stated that Pop is the “most underrated coach in the history of sports.”
But what is it that makes Pop so great?
The gruff, former Air Force captain certainly isn’t afraid to say exactly what he thinks and he doesn’t suffer fools lightly. In fact, sideline reporters and other members of the media are afraid of him, living in constant fear that they will be the next recipient of another one of his famously blunt and usually snarky responses to what he obviously perceives to be stupid questions.
But it’s not just the media that fears him; it’s his players as well. He demands perfection from those around him, and isn’t afraid to call a person out if he fails to achieve it anything less than that. When it comes to basketball, he’s admittedly never happy, once telling a reporter that, “Happy is not a concept coaches are comfortable with.”
Yet somehow, despite his surliness, his players love him and they would do anything in the world for him. That’s because Popovich knows how to build close, trusting relationships with them and it’s this quality that sets him apart from many other coaches.
In fact, Brown once raved about Pop’s ability to build relationships with his players:
He’s the best at it. I think it’s just because, deep down, Pop’s as decent a guy as you will ever meet. He can yell at the players because they trust him. They know he’s got their backs.
And that’s exactly what makes Gregg Popovich such a successful coach. Yes, he ‘s a bit scary. Yes, he’s nearly impossible to please. Yes, he will likely publicly embarrass you if you do anything stupid. But ultimately, he knows how to get the best out of his players and he does it by earning their trust and pushing them as hard as he possibly can. It’s for these reasons that when the season ends, Coach Pop and his San Antonio Spurs will be hoisting their fifth NBA champsionship trophy.