By Benjamin Bornstein, Project Spurs.com
Do you want to know the real reason the San Antonio Spurs have been so great over the course of basically a generation?
It’s not just transcendent players, it’s not just key free agent pickups, but it’s the guys who get to make those decisions. General Manager of the Spurs, R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich, the coach, have been given the freedom to go out and get the players they think can help them win. They have a peace of mind that few GMs and coaches have with not only each other, but with ownership.
Peter Holt has been an investor in the Spurs since 1993 and is now the principal owner of the team. He has never let the team leave the city because of his commitment both to the team and the community. His Caterpillar company has a headquarters there and he has always wanted the city to strive as he not only owns the Spurs, but also the Silver Stars of the WNBA, the Austin Toros of the NBA Developmental League, and the American Hockey League team, San Antonio Rampage. He’s always run his businesses with a mindset that you can work for him as long as you make sound ethical decisions, you do business the right way, and you’re up front with people.
These are qualities that Pop and Buford greatly appreciate and reciprocate when they make their basketball decisions.
Via NY Post:
“Number one, Peter Holt is smart enough to know that he’s not a basketball coach or a manager,” Popovich said. “He’s been very successful and he’s secure enough in his own skin to allow R.C. and I to do our work.”
This perfectly illustrates their relationship and it’s a huge reason that the fans have been so loyal to the team and the city.
Holt was one of the first guys on the street when the Spurs won it all in 1999 and he’s still gotten that excited for every championship. Holt is clearly a smart guy as he was able to make his money with Caterpillar and turned it into one of the biggest dealerships in the country. He’s used similar business strategies in running the Spurs and making them such a great team despite playing in such a small market.
Buford, Popovich, and Holt have been together almost since the very beginning with Holt coming in ’93 and hiring Popovich as the GM and VP of Basketball Operations the next year. Pop then brought in Buford as one of his first hires (after having worked with him on the Larry Brown-led Spurs teams) to become his Head Scout. Buford obviously moved up the ladder and was eventually rewarded with the title of GM in 2002 just in time win the 2003 championship that season. The rest is of course history as most would say with five championships under his belt (four as GM) and the NBA recently recognized him for his efforts by naming him the Executive of the Year for the 2013-14 season.
None of this could have happened with a lot of other owners who tend to exhibit a very short-term thinking process, thinking they need to win right away and have total control of the team. Guys like Tim Duncan understand the importance of Holt’s approach and can certainly appreciate it.
“Pop has always talked about that freedom, the ability to make his own decision and make his own calls….That way he and R.C. know exactly what kind of team he wants to put together and what kind of moves he wants to make, without having to clear everything with the owner.”
And as Duncan pointed out, “It’s worked well, obviously.”
I suppose it would be difficult for a 14-time All-Star, Rookie of the Year, 3-time Finals MVP, 2-time NBA MVP, and All-Star Game MVP to complain about five championships over the course of his career and winning them with the same ownership and staff (for the most part) all while somehow still finding a way to stay under the radar.
Just remember, true champions aren’t bought or bribed into playing together, but are put through the grueling hours of practice necessary to play on that “next level.”
The Spurs certainly did that as they’ve had hundreds of videos commemorating their Finals wins made in their honor and even got a nice homage made called “The Beautiful Game” and that tells you all you need to know about how Buford, Popovich, and Holt built one of the greatest teams in any of the Big Four sports. Just know, the foundation was built in 1994 and it’s led to 17 straight winning seasons.
Not a bad start, wouldn’t you say?