On the success of Popovich and his avoidance of the spotlight:
SK: Well I think he likes it that way, first of all. He’s gotten the Coach of the Year award twice and both times he raced out to the floor, grabbed the trophy, threw it to somebody else, put his head down and walked back to the huddle to coach the game. He doesn’t want the accolades. Most of that is just the fact that San Antonio is a small market, and there’s never a whole lot of drama. Tim Duncan doesn’t give you much in terms of anything to write about. David Robinson, even though he was very outgoing, there was never any drama. So, they’re a machine, and that’s just the way Pop likes it. I think he enjoys not being in the spotlight all the time.
On the age requirement to enter the NBA:
RM: I’m torn on this. We see tennis players start when they’re 17 or 18, and golf prodigies start early. I know this: I was fortunate, and I wanted to stay all four years at UCLA because I was having a good time. You learn so much, people and life skills, while you’re in college. Now having said that, that shouldn’t deter someone to have an opportunity to make a living and help support your family if you have the skill set to do that. If any of these guys were geniuses that could work for Apple, or Facebook or whatever at 17 or 18, you couldn’t tell me people wouldn’t hire those people for a certain amount of money. If you’re a famous cellist, you can make music or an album. On that standpoint, I think people should have an opportunity to make a living.
Now, broadcasting and watching the NBA, a lot of these guys aren’t ready from a mental standpoint – basketball or development skills, or even off the court related issues. So that’s why I think two or three years would be great. I kind of like if it were like baseball. If you sign a minor league contract or if you’re drafted and you decide to go to college, then you have to go to college for three years. If not, you have the opportunity to go play. I’m sure that David Stern and the rest of the Players’ Association will wrangle about to finish out the bargaining agreement.
My personal standpoint is, if you’re good enough to play, and that’s what you want to do, you should have the right to do that. But I understand where people are coming from a basketball standpoint. I would say 80 percent of these guys aren’t ready to become men.
On the Duncan-Popovich relationship:
SK: Pop is great because he is constantly saying publicly that none of this would work without Tim, and Tim’s allowance of Pop coaching the game. And Pop’s right – it’s great that he communicates that – so there’s a tremendous amount of trust involved. But I think in terms of personality, they blend very well. Tim is very mild-mannered, mellow. He’s competitive, but not overbearing with his presence and personality. So Pop provides that presence and leadership for the team, and I think Tim embraces that. But just the fact that he’s a genuinely good person who cares about his players, who cares about their families.
Both Tim [Duncan] and David [Robinson], Pop would just light into those guys if they weren’t competing. I remember one post game where Pop was coming out of his shoes just lighting into those guys. So the reason the whole thing worked was because they accepted it, and that’s a tough thing to find these days – that maturity level of the stars. One of the points that I was making with that [Grantland] article I wrote, even the stars these days who came straight out of high school, their ability to allow for coaching and to be coached has been compromised. It really goes back to Tim and David early for allowing Pop to coach them, which obviously sets the tone for the rest of the organization.
What do you think?
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