Gregg Popovich has captured four NBA titles while coaching the San Antonio Spurs for more than 15 years, and he’s kept them in title contention even with aging stars Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili in the twilight of their careers. Despite the resume, he recently paid the ultimate compliment to first-year Celtics coach Brad Stevens when he claimed to have learned from the former Butler helmsman.
The Wednesday night before Popovich’s Spurs faced Stevens’s rebuilding Celtics squad, Popovich told reporters he used to watch Stevens’ old Butler teams to see what he could learn. Via Masslive.com:
“When (the Butler Bulldogs) were on TV, I watched the game to see what I could pick up, to see what (now-Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens) did, because he did such a fine job.
“Good teams all have the same trademarks. It’s not like somebody owns the secrets to it,” said Popovich. “But they were a disciplined team, they were a creative team, they were committed, they played great D, unselfish on offense. It’s all the same things that win, but they did it consistently – year after year after year, game after game after game.”
Popovich also credited Celtics GM Danny Ainge for hiring a replacement for the the departed Doc Rivers based on coaching ability rather than a big name.
“I think we don’t see it enough, where ownership and GMs will actually look and say, ‘Who is coaching well?’ rather than ‘What name can I bring or what would this do or that?’” Popovich said. “But actually look around the country – it doesn’t matter what level – and say, ‘This guy is doing a hell of a job right here.’ Or maybe from another country: ‘This guy is doing a hell of a job.’ Whatever it might be. And Danny did that, so he deserves a lot of credit for it.”
Stevens, for his part, was quick to deflect the compliment. When told that Popovich had watched Butler games to see if he could pick some things up from his teams, Stevens joked, “Yeah, and the answer was no.
“It’s a really kind thing for him to say,” Stevens continued. “He’s at the top of our profession. I don’t think there’s any question about it, in a number of ways.”
Popovich is considered by many — including us — to be the top coach in the contemporary NBA, so it must have felt good for Stevens when he complimented his Butler teams while simultaneously applauding C’s management for bringing him aboard. While the kind words were a nice ego boost, Stevens probably would have preferred a win that night. The Celtics lost to Popovich’s mighty Spurs 104-93 and fell to 4-9 this season.
What do you think of Popovich’s complimentary comments?
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