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Gregg Popovich: ‘If I coached Tony today like I did then, I would be handcuffed’

This is undoubtedly the hyphen of this 2023 vintage of the Hall Of Fame. At 74, Gregg Popovich joined the Basketball Hall of Fame, and it was like a no-brainer. He is the most successful coach in history, and he trained Tony Parker and Becky Hammon, but also coached Pau Gasol. He was also a tenacious opponent of Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki. Popovich is a whole chapter in NBA and basketball history. And his speech lasted… 26 minutes!

“I tried to find a word to describe what one can feel”, Popovich said. “And it’s still different from what I had imagined. For me, it’s unimaginable. And this is not an attempt to be modest. This pushes me to ask myself a question: “What the hell am I doing here? How did this all happen? It’s hard to describe. »

“Basketball doesn’t tell us: ‘I love you daddy'”

Very moved, Popovich recalled his beginnings, as an anonymous player in Division III of the NCAA. He recalled that he had gone through the US Air Force, and that it was during a test with the Nuggets, at 26, that he was advised to move towards coaching. Then, for one of the rare times in his career, Coach Pop’ spoke about his family, and his wife, who died in 2018.

“I have a family… People think I only play basketball. I don’t really like that. Basketball doesn’t love us back, does it? We regard it as something futile, don’t we? It pays our bills. It gives us a wonderful life. But I don’t remember basketball telling us “I love you, dad”. It’s different. It’s the family. My wife Erin, for 42 years, has been our center of gravity. She was our rock and gave meaning to everything we did. My son Mickey is an artist, musician in Seattle. My daughter Jill keeps us all on the straight and narrow. My grandchildren are the stars of the show,” lists Popovich, who says he loves playing grandfather and insists on keeping them. »

The Spurs coach thanked Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and David Robinson without whom he would never have such a record. Gregg Popovich also thanked Larry Brown for believing in him as a Spurs assistant, and Don Nelson for giving him his first opportunity at the Warriors.

“What did I learn from Manu? I learned to shut up and let him play”

And then, we will remember this passage on his very flowery method of talking to the players.

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“With David Robinson, I was saying insults”, said Popovich. “It was not my goal to insult, but you have to be yourself. Players have big antennas and if you’re not sincere, they know it in a second. You have to be yourself. So David said to me, “As long as you don’t quote the Lord, that’s fine with me.” With Tony, if I coached him today like I did, I would be in handcuffs. He even tells me that I’m soft now. With Timmy, I just wanted him to listen to what I said or nod. From time to time, he nodded to me. What did I learn from Manu? I learned to shut up and let him play.

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