Poppin' Off: Gregg Popovich's 1,000th Win Means More Than Any Other
It's never been about the glitz and glam for Gregg Popovich, or “Coach Pop.”
With an extensive education and athletic career at the United States Air Force Academy, followed by five years of active duty in the US Air Force, discipline has always been part of Pop's repertoire.
You don't get through a decade of rigid regulations without coming away with a greater understanding of controlled development.
In his 16th season as the head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, Popovich's rigidity and disregard for media hype and hoopla paid off, making him the ninth NBA coach to earn 1,000 wins.
This follows accolades of five NBA titles, a three-time title holder for NBA Coach of the Year and the longest tenure for a single team among the NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB franchises.
The coaches attaining these famed achievements truly deserve attention. As a nation, we are fair-weathered with the men in charge of our beloved pro athletes.
We despise and laugh at Pete Carroll for a poor play call, follow the dramatics between the Harbaugh brothers on opposing NFL sidelines and rejoice with the termination of coaches that oversee losing teams. We are cruel and calculated in our judgments.
Yet, we pray jail time is minimal for our athletes in order to have a successful fantasy draft.
Popovich has similarly undergone scrutiny. In 2012, months before the Spurs would, once again, find themselves in the Championship series, he sat four of his five starters.
Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green spent the night in San Antonio during a Spurs vs. Heat match in Miami; Pop had always been clear about his intentions to rest players before the Playoffs.
This game just happened to be a nationally televised game on the road in Miami, the team that would eventually beat the Spurs in the finals that year. Pop and the Spurs were fined $250,000 for this.
The NBA asked for money for resting players who put on great shows, yet it has turned a blind eye to crime, abuse and violence on display for all of the same young viewers.
We want our athletes on television to bend and break in order to perform. Popovich makes decisions based on this novel concept called teamwork. He wants the team to be at their best when it matters, and he also creates the element of trust by allowing players off of the bench to take control of games and keep the support of the starters intact.
This is brilliant, yet the man was punished in more ways than one.
Looking out for the betterment of your athletes' health, your team's morale and trust and ultimately, your franchise's winning record takes discipline. Popovich has remained unfazed and steady in his coaching approach and philosophy.
We are so lucky to have the type of exposure we have these days. We have hundreds of teams, in a multitude of competitive arenas that are seemingly at our disposal to watch, ridicule and rejoice over.
We can comment on who they are sleeping with, how many children they have and how they conduct themselves in interviews. We grow up dreaming about being one of them because they represent power, athleticism and independent success.
We forget about the coaches, though. We forget someone is still in charge of uniting these powerful, athletic and independent professionals.
We forget that reinventing the wheel for sports that have been around for ages is not something that's easy. We forget that coaches make poor play calls because they have faith in their teams, and we forget they are human.
Popovich is the man; he resides over adult men who respect him. Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Green didn't flood the media with angry interviews or resentment toward their coach after they were fined.
They took the break with grace, and they didn't make the game about them. And, later, they led their team to a seven-game run at a fifth NBA title (granted, this wouldn't happen until 2014).
In professional sports, we consider the coaches to have one job: to create a winning team. Coach Pop has not only taken the Spurs to 1,000 of those expected wins, but also done so while imposing teamwork, discipline and respect.
Enjoy the glitz and the glam, but tip your hats to the Popovich's of the league. They do so much more than give us a good show.