Last night the San Antonio Spurs almost pulled off their most impressive win in recent regular season memory. Down 18 with about three minutes left in the third quarter, a Spurs roster that consisted of Gary Neal, Danny Green, James Anderson, Matt Bonner and Tiago Splitter roared back to give the Spurs the lead late in the fourth, only to eventually lost by one in overtime.
It was an incredible showing of poise and knowledge of a system. While many were suprised by this comeback, one guy, Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle wasn’t. Carlisle told the media after the game he wasn’t entirely surprised by the comeback because of Coach Pop.
“I think he’s the greatest coach, really ever in this game, because all their guys function within their system at a high level,” Carlisle said.
That’s high praise for a guy who just led his team to an NBA title. ESPN’s Henry Abbott added this about Pop’s ability to turn a no win situation like last night’s game was shaping up to be in to a situation that instilled confidence in a group of guys who are a little further down on the Spurs’ totem pole. It’s something termed as “Royal Jelly”.
“It’s about the fine art of nurturing players — intelligently giving them the support, trust and guidance to evolve. It’s the opposite of assuming players are what they are and can be no different. Baby bees can turn into drones or queens. They’re born the same. The queens, though, are the ones that get the royal jelly, which, I’d argue, Popovich hands out more readily than most coaches.
In most systems, on most teams, the big minutes in the big games go to those who have already earned them. In San Antonio, Popovich knows those minutes can do a lot to inspire young players to develop. He has long been handing them out to players who would struggle to make a lot of NBA rosters. And he has way more than his fair share of those players evolve into meaningful contributors. Is it just that his front office knows how to find diamonds in the rough? Or maybe Popovich has mastered the art of polishing.”
There are no moral victories, especially when you’re playing the Mavs, but given how well the bench played I didn’t turn off last night’s game feeling terrible about the outcome.