The NBA named San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich the 2013-14 Coach of the Year. It’s Popovich’s third Coach of the Year award, putting him in exclusive company: Pat Riley and Don Nelson are the only other coaches with three Coach of the Year awards.
So, the question remains: Where will Pop keep his awards?
“They are on the hood of my car, like the players do with license plates,” Popovich said.
In the 15-minute press conference, Popovich praised the Spurs organization. He praised owner Peter Holt for giving him the latitude to make personnel decisions and create a culture conducive to winning. He praised general manager RC Buford for giving him a pliable roster to work with. He praised his players for doing all the nitty gritty work on the court.
Given the circumstances of this season — one year removed from two consecutive debilitating losses in the NBA Finals to the Miami Heat — the Spurs didn’t waver.
“Our team showed great maturity and resilience in being able to do that, set aside and begin again,” Popovich said. “I’m very proud of them for that.”
Pop didn’t waver either. The Spurs have one job to do.
“Don’t blame it on the basketball Gods,” Popovich said. “The Miami Heat beat us in the championship. And that’s that. You move on.”
This is arguably Popovich’s greatest coaching feat. The Spurs set franchise records in road wins (30), winning streak (19), 3-pointers (698) and eFG% (53.7). They led the league in point differential. 17 different Spurs started a game and no Spur exceeded 30 minutes per game, the first team in NBA history to do so.
“More than anybody else, obviously, when you win an award it gets down to the players,” Popovich said. “The players do the work. They do the winning.”
“We are fortunate. These guys don’t care about stats. They only care about winning basketball games.”
But the most important lesson of Popovich’s Coach of the Year press conference? Perspective.
“… In all of our lives, there are many things more important than winning a basketball game,” Popovich said. “That’s the perspective we had to take … You might win a championship, you might not. You give it your best effort and move on.”
Just look at the big picture, last year’s Finals notwithstanding. In Popovich’s 17-year tenure, they’ve won 70.6 percent of their games, the best 17-year stretch in NBA history. They’ve reached the Finals five times, with four titles.
Longevity isn’t easy or appreciated.
“People want quick, quick wins and satisfaction,” Popovich said. “They don’t quite understand how long it takes to put something together.”
It also takes a lot of time to tear something down. The Spurs are still alive and well.
Here’s some other miscellaneous Popovich quotes from his press conference:
- Pop: “I feel very honored for a whole lot of reasons. First of all, there was so many coaches that did such great job this year. A lot of people were really special. To be singled out is really humbling.”
- Pop: “RC and I have been very fortunate to be here together with an owner who lets us do our job … I can’t overstate that.”
- Buford: “(Pop’s) steadfast attention to detail, and facing the reality of last season’s end immediately and getting behind us was really important.”
- Pop: “Larry Brown screwed me as a player. He had the unmitigated gall to pick David Thompson over me.”
- Pop: “I was fat, dumb, and happy as a Division III coach. I’d do it for the rest of my life. I loved it.”
- Pop: “Tim Duncan, to this day, thinks I hindered his career because he thinks he’s a point guard.”