Sportress of Blogitude

Gregg Popovich can be as tight-lipped during timeouts as he is during interviews


To say that San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich can be standoffish, curmudgeonly and sometime flat-out rude during interactions with the media can be an understatement. On-court interviews, post-game press conferences, you name it, Popovich loathes being forced to talk when he doesn’t feel like it, which seems to be often, almost always.

At the same time, even though it is uncomfortable to watch at times, it does provide for great theater. At least for viewers. The reporter, sideline reporter, etc.? Not so much.

But who would have guessed Pop is prone to being as tight-lipped with his players during timeouts as well, especially when he is particularly unhappy with their play?

During a Q&A session with Jeff McDonald, the Spurs beat writer for the San Antonio Express-News, Popovich shed some light on how he can give Spurs players the silent treatment during timeouts, at least after he subtly berates them in a very Popovichian manner.

Q. How do you get players to take ownership of the offense? Is it a confidence thing?

Popovich: “That’s a good question. A lot depends on the competitiveness and the character of the player. Often times, I’ll appeal to that. Like, I can’t make every decision for you. I don’t have 14 timeouts. You guys got to get together and talk. You guys might see a mismatch that I don’t see. You guys need to communicate constantly — talk, talk, talk to each other about what’s going on on the court.

“I think that communication thing really helps them. It engenders a feeling that they can actually be in charge. I think competitive character people don’t want to be manipulated constantly to do what one individual wants them to do. It’s a great feeling when players get together and do things as a group. Whatever can be done to empower those people …

“Sometimes in timeouts I’ll say, ‘I’ve got nothing for you. What do you want me to do? We just turned it over six times. Everybody’s holding the ball. What else do you want me to do here? Figure it out.’ And I’ll get up and walk away. Because it’s true. There’s nothing else I can do for them. I can give them some bulls—, and act like I’m a coach or something, but it’s on them.

Yeah, that sounds about right. Popovich’s methods may not seem to be the best way to, you know, coach, the proof is in the pudding. Ad the tremendous success the Spurs have enjoyed during his tenure cannot be ignored.