|San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich with 1000 Wins|
Observations of a Winner - by Coach Scott Fields
Thanks for allowing me this opportunity to share things from my perspective. I hope it helps you on your professional journey as well.
I wanted to take a moment to share some thoughts on my observations of Coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs. This is special in our fraternity. I am not just speaking about the fact he has reached 1000 wins, but it is about how he has done it. This of course, is from a professional coaches perspective. This is as much about longevity with one franchise, which is special and unique. This is even more difficult to do in today's society. I think about how much the game has changed and how much the circumstances have changed and the environment has changed. This since his first NBA game won. Today we have social media, We have owners who want it, and they want it NOW. This is the microwave society we live in. Owners want it now, Fans want it now. The Media wants it now. Longevity is not easy today. This is another reason why I feel this is special. I don't have the numbers, but, I am stabbing in the dark here, I would assume that Pop has more wins than a few franchises combined.
Yes, it is a 1000 wins, and it takes an Owner to stay in his lane. let his GM do his job, let the Coach do his job. It is about drafting the right players to fit the philosophy and chemistry of the Team. it is about building relationships with your athletes. It is about building a strong relationship with your Star. It is about getting not only your star to lead by example and buy into the system. It is getting your Star to be selfless. It is not about not making the athlete think less of himself, it is about making them understand that giving of oneself for the betterment of the Team.
Is this an easier task to accomplish in a smaller media market? Is this about some Luck in the draft ? is this about drafting foreign born stars who are not entitled as American athletes? many things can be said and asked?
Let talk about what we see from the outside looking in. Lets give credit where credit is do. What can a young Coach learn from observing Coach Pop.
I see a man who is passionate about his job. I see a man who loves what he does. I see a man who cares about his players. I see a man who put the relationship of his athletes first. I see a man who built a culture of winning. I see a man who works well with the Owner and GM. I see the success in keeping everyone on the same page in the building the culture and franchise. I see a great communicator. I see a man who stands for his integrity. I see a man who has a philosophy. I see a man who loves to Teach. I see a man who isn't afraid to hold people accountable. I see a man who yes, has great players. but he manages those players. I see a man who has changed with the game when the game and the abilities of his players have changed.
Coach Pop had "The Admiral" and I see a Coach who brought in Timmy Duncan, a man who played all four years in college. I saw a Coach who got players to adapt to their roles within the Team. I saw the torch passed from David Robinson to Tim Duncan. I saw a Coach who went through the bigs on the block to start his offensive attack, then saw a Coach change when the players aged and skill sets changed. I saw a Coach bring in a Tony Parker and helped him understand his role. I saw a Coach help take a Manu Ginobili and make his skills mesh with a Tim Duncan and Tony Parker and took an athlete from San Diego State in Kawhi Leonard and developed his game to become a scorer and shooter, and then with the unselfish play of his stars make this player a Finals MVP.
Now lets talk about what we all observed in the NBA Finals.
The NBA Finals and the exhibition that was put on. This was basketball at it purest form. This was against the media favored and fan favorite giants in Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh and a Team constructed by Winner Pat Riley. I watched a Team that had a Championship snatched from their grasp. I see stars hurt when the lost. I saw a Team come back with a vengeance. Yes, it is cliche', but it is so true.
"Performance Reflected Leadership"
Coach Pop kept his players fresh, he took an aging Team and an under the radar Big Three in Tim, Manu and Tony with Players who knew and understood their roles.
Coach Pop also would buck the system a bit , he was clever as a Fox, he didn't care about a game in December or a game in February, he would rest his stars even when social media and the press would question him. Coach Pop used it as an opportunity to accomplish multiple things. 1) rest his stars, and 2) gain valuable experience for his younger role players to have to step up and contribute to winning. This is the culture he created and players deep on the bench gained confidence and knew they could perform on the road and in a hostile environment.
This was a masterful, he was building a bench, they now had stars, they had a bench, and they had role players who embraced their roles.
Yes,they played unselfish. Yes they made the extra pass, yes, they played for each other. There was spacing, there was ball movement, there were the hockey assist. A pass before the pass to the wide open man. It was a thing of beauty.
There was also tough defense and great adjustments being made.
As a Coach, it was a clinic to watch. As a Coach, it was basketball at is purest form. As a Coach, I loved watching the bench support the players that were on the court, Players were engaged in the game, they were up supporting each other, they were waving towels and chest pumping going on. Not one person was thinking of themself.
I saw a team Focused, I saw a Team with Urgency, I saw Team with laser like focus on execution on offense and attention to detail, I saw a Team playing tough defense on Lebron, they kept fresh legs on him and wearing him down and frustrating a Team and making them look old and a step slow. It was not the old team looking a step slow.
Yes, it is about the players, It is about talent, It is about being surrounded by good people. I see a Humble Leader, I see a man with his finger in the pulse of his players. Not just the star, but on the pulse of each player, a Observed a Coach watch body language of each player, making game time adjustments, I saw a coach controlling the tempo of not just the game, but the series.
Coach Pop doesn't care about the mandatory TV interview, he will be short, he will not divulge Team information. It has become iconic, except for those conducting the interview. But did you see another side of him when he was interviewed by the son of Craig Sager? That was the true Coach Pop. I see a Coach who knows and understands the process, Coach Pop understands the journey and the marathon that is an entire NBA season. That is 82 regular season games plus each Play Off Series. It is a Grind. I see a Coach who trust his players, I see a Coach who hires Players from within and makes them coaches and front office executives, men who know and understand the culture. I see Coaches give suggestions, I see a Head Coach listen to his brain trust. I see a Coach listen to his players on the floor, but yet, still be stern enough to make the tough decisions when he knows it is the Teams best interest. I see a Coach who has hired a female on his staff. I see a Coach who has hired a successful European coach on his staff. Coach Pop and the Spurs are always proactive and a step ahead of their time. people will continue to question, the Coaching tree of Coach Pop continues to grow and blossom.
I am guessing here but Coach Pop is probably more concerned for Coach Jacque Vaughn and his firing from the Orlando Magic this week than he is for his milestone.
I am proud of Coach Gregg Popovich. Coach Pop will continue to be humble, there will not be celebrations, It will be forward ahead and focus on the next game. I see a Coach preparing his Team and keeping everything in perspective. I see a Coach who will scowl as he is a perfectionist trying to prefect something that can't be perfected. No media hoopla, Just focus on a few games before All Star break.
Congrats to Coach Pop. Keep doing what you do !
I continue to learn and grow from observing your style, your personality.
You remind me a lot off a Hall of Fame Coach Jerry Sloan of The Utah Jazz.
The Hall awaits you, but right now, I am sure you will just enjoy a glass of wine and be ready for the next game and move towards the next accolade. I know, Team first. I see this in your Players and you have inflicted your will well.
Coach Pop you will deflect the attention from yourself and talk about Team, but, Coach Pop, you have the Team playing and representing the Franchise the "Right Way"
Look for the next post on another Hall of Fame Coach soon.
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