HOUSTON – Gregg Popovich may be known for being a perfectionist, especially when you see him coaching the San Antonio Spurs and he almost loses his sanity when a player doesn't rotate on defense in time. That's usually the outside view of Coach Pop but, for Spurs fans, it's a completely different personality they know. This laid back personality was visible during All-Star Weekend, especially for the team of stars he was coaching. Kevin Durant commented on what it's like to be coached under Pop for this game.
"It was a joy. This is my second time playing under him," Durant said. "He just makes the game very, very fun. He told us to go out and play. But he also said to respect the game."
The All-Star Game is different from how Pop usually coaches. The coaches, players, and fans know that there won't be defensive stops or a seriousness to the game like there is during the playoffs, but there's still a sense of pride to win that has to be mixed in with having fun. The San Antonio Spurs' culture to the game of basketball has always been to respect the game and that's something Pop doesn't belittle, even at an event that really has no significance as far as the regular season goes.
The West came out with a close win and you could attribute that to Pop's mentality of respect. This All-Star Game may be the last one Popovich coaches, depending if the Spurs end up in the NBA Finals and getting four wins since he said he'll coach as long as Tim Duncan's around. Whether he leaves or coaches a few more years longer, this All-Star Game may serve as validation for Popovich's reputation and legacy as one of the greatest coaches of all time.
"As players we all respect Pop around the league. We know what he stands for. We know what he's done. It was a pleasure playing for him. And I had a lot of fun," Durant added.
San Antonio may not be the ideal destination for free agents in the offseason, but it doesn't affect the Spurs' history of winning. Pop's attitude toward the game and his teams is what makes him unique. Sometimes it means screaming at a player for a missed rotation or kidding around during practice with a live mic. Either way you look at it, there's one thing that stands true about Coach Pop and it's in Durant's statement.
"We know what he stands for, we know what he's done," Durant said.
Pop's approach to the game is what he has been and will be remembered for, no matter how you look at his coaching ways.