There are a number of similarities between the San Antonio Spurs and the New England Patriots. Both controlled their respective sport for almost 20 years, enjoying unparalleled levels of success over the time period. Both head coaches Gregg Popovich and Bill Belichick are notoriously prickly with the media, although their talent on the sideline is unmatched by any of their counterparts.
Whereas Belichick boasted Tom Brady as his leading man on the field, Popovich had Tim Duncan. They were two future Hall of Fame players that not only excelled but also set the tone for the team in the locker room due to their incredible desire for success. It’s why the Spurs won an astounding five titles during his era, and why the Patriots won six Super Bowl in the era of Brady.
Popovich had his succession planned mapped out with Kawhi Leonard ready to step into the shoes of Duncan to continue the Spurs’ dynasty. However, Leonard did not have the same character as Duncan and fell afoul of his coach. Their relationship could not be remedied and Kawhi was traded away to the Toronto Raptors. There were similar ructions between Brady and Belichick over his failed succession plan. Belichick had to part way with the upstart Jimmy Garoppolo to keep Brady on the roster for another three seasons. It allowed the Patriots to win another crown in 2018, but the 43-year-old quarterback was soon on the move out of New England in 2020.
The fortunes of the two franchises have headed down a similar path. San Antonio endured back-to-back defeats in the first round of the post-season following Kawhi’s departure before failing to reach the playoffs for the first time in 23 years last term. There are mitigating factors such as injuries, but the primary reason is the lack of talent on the court.
LaMarcus Aldridge is a fine player, but at the age of 35, he is not capable of carrying the team alone. DeMar DeRozan was exceptional in Toronto and has maintained his standards in San Antonio. However, he is not a transformational talent. As a result, the Spurs are well out of contention in the odds on NBA betting on bet365 at +10000 to win the NBA Championship next term. It’s not the fault of the two players, but a cocktail of failures within the organization.
Draft picks such as Jakob Pottl, Dejounte Murray, Nikola Milutinov and Kyle Anderson are failing or failed to hit the high notes on the court. There remains hope for Murray, Derrick White and Lonnie Walker to fire under Popovich, but there may come a time when Aldridge and DeRozan are not there to bear the weight of the points-scoring. It may result in further disappointment for the Spurs. R.C Buford has to come under the spotlight for failing to attract sufficient talent to the roster to keep San Antonio churning along at the top of the NBA. The Spurs are a victim of their own success as their repeated previous runs in the post-season left them picking at the back end of the NBA Draft. The further down you drop the harder it is to acquire talent.
It’s a problem Belichick is all too familiar with at the Patriots. Brady’s departure was partly due to the lack of talent on New England’s roster due to draft failures by Belichick. He missed on almost every first round pick since 2014. Brady was tired of working with minimal talent and opted to leave for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Without the future Hall of Famer to cover up his mistakes, the Patriots appear to be on course to miss the post-season for the first time since the 2008 season. Belichick is a victim of his own success as much as the Spurs are. However, it proves that you can be the best coach in the game and have the best organization structure, but without the talent on the court or field it all counts for very little.