Gregg Popovich is one of the best coaches in NBA history but, if you ask Pop, the cantankerous legend will quickly pass off praise and credit to the long list of players that have worn the San Antonio Spurs uniform. What makes Popovich a unique coach is his relationship and the foundation of trust that has been built with his entire roster, most notably his star players. Tim Duncan and Popovich’s relationship is well documented; a player-coach match made in heaven. However, the relationship between Pop and Spurs guard Parker has a special home-grown quality to it.
Remember that in 2001 Parker was an unknown European prospect, almost immediately dismissed by Popovich during workouts. Now 12 seasons later, Parker is a NBA top ten player and the commander of one of the most dominant franchises in sports history. That’s an incredible transformation from an audacious youngster enveloped in rumors and criticism.
Tony’s game and character has evolved under the tutelage and tough love of Popovich. Jesse Blanchard of Project Spurs said it best, “Tony Parker was forged in the fire of Popovich's wrath. No flame burns brighter, no steel more tempered.” The trust and respect that Coach Pop has for Parker was evident in last night’s first game of the 2013 NBA Finals.
After hitting the now famous last-nanosecond shot, Parker quickly moved on the next task at hand. Parker conferred with Coach Pop on the defensive strategy and then relayed the message to the rest of the team. While the coaches convened near the basket during the timeout, Tony and Tim took over coaching duties at the bench.