Great coaches are great for a reason, prolonged success. That success comes from doing things a certain way, and consistently getting a positive result.
- Phil Jackson manages attitudes and makes sure the ball is shared, largely with a tweaked version of Tex Winters baby, the triangle offense.
- Don Nelson creates over achieving squads with disparate parts, thanks to unconventional offenses.
- Jerry Sloan always seems to be in the playoffs, with hard working players that buy into the system.
- Larry Brown is a teacher. Somehow, over time, he can turn players with unreached potential into all stars, but it helps a lot if he has some veteran guys to help lead the way.
- Scott Skiles takes lackadaisical squads and gets them to play tough, hard nosed basketball, with an emphasis on defense.
This brings us to Gregg Popovich, with job security surpassed only by Jerry Sloan. He hasn’t had to manage attitudes like Jackson, because every team leader is a high character guy, instead of just a character. Unlike Nelson, he hasn’t produced an over achieving squad, but that’s because he has guys like Ginobili, who only know one way to play, and that’s all out, all the time.
Pop does make up a nice mesh of those last 3 though. He has hard working guys playing within the system. He’s a great teacher, just in case you haven’t noticed how far Parker has come since his rookie year. And every player needs to play some smart basketball, with an emphasis on defense, or they won’t be on the court long.
Of course, like every great coach, Pop has some habits that he’s run into, becoming a bit stubborn.
When he was still early in his Spurs coaching career, Parker became starting point as a rookie, partly because of need, partly because Pop believed in him. Guys either played defense right away, or they got pulled within seconds. He was also quick to try something different, using smart veterans that adjusted quickly.
Over time though, he’s been spoiled. Pop has had the core of Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, and Bowen in place for a long time. They are known assests, and they’ve been doing things a certain way for a long time. Players came and went, but with that core, the methods never changed.
With that, Popovich has entered a comfort zone. He’s got veterans that do things his way, and he trusts them, perhaps too much.
What Can Change?
Duncan really hasn’t done anything wrong, other than play outstanding basketball for too many games, in too many years. There are times he should be pulled for a breather, in games that we are holding a big lead. This will be more important then ever this year, with lots of youthful players learning a system that they’ll need to know thoroughly before April.
Ginobili’s style of play makes him injury prone, but there might be more talent behind him now than ever before. Mason shoots lights out when not overworked, and Hill continues to impress.
Parker is one of the best point guards in the league, but he can still get a little wild sometimes. When it gets to be a bit too much, Pop can’t be afraid to pull him for awhile and give him a talking to. Besides, there is a huge fan base that wants to see more of George Hill. Don’t be mad Tony, sometimes you just turn it over too much.
This year we added Richard Jefferson, who we presume will be starting, but will also have some upcoming talent behind him. Hill will be in his second year, and preseason is giving us even more reasons why he needs to to get more minutes. Blair is a beast on the offensive boards, and he grabs some defensive ones too. Mahinmi is shaking off the rust, but could provide the answer we didn’t know we had at center. And Haislip also holds some potential in the post.
Question is, will Pop play them?
- With a well respected big like McDyess joining the roster, will the younger guys get enough chances to prove themselves?
- With Finley nearby, well entrenched in the Spurs way, will Pop look to the player just beyond him to come off the bench?
- With an all star talent like Parker, will Hill gain enough experience at the point to deliver when he is needed most?
- When Dallas/Denver/Portland/Orlando/Cleveland/Boston/LA is shoving it down our throats, will Pop have the cahonies to do something crazy to shake us out of our funk?
Perhaps the biggest question of all, is Popovich stubborn enough to look the other coach in the eye and say “Bring it. Whatever you’ve got, I will answer. I have a roster that goes 12 deep with capable talent, and any one of them might be told to punish you. I have new tricks up my sleeve that I’m just looking for an excuse to use. Give me everything you’ve got, because my bench wants to abuse you while Timmy watches gleefully from the sideline.”
So we put it out to our readers, where do you see Pop’s stubbornness? Can he, and will he change?