Doris Burke recalls how Gregg Popovich interview left her ‘almost in tears’
Gregg Popovich, despite the tremendous amount of success he has enjoyed as head coach of the San Antonio Spurs while leading the team to multiple championships, arguably has become nearly as well-known for his cantankerous, gruff and sometimes downright rude and dismissive treatment of sideline reporters and the media in general (SoB’s Popovich archives are chock-full of these kind of incidents)
More often than not, the sideline reporters are his victim of choice. Clearly, on most occasions, Pop has no time for their questions nor any interest in making their jobs easy for them. He has better things to worry about (like coaching up his players with semi-erotic moves in the huddle, for instance) and would prefer to avoid them entirely.
Sadly, either by the NBA’s directive or otherwise, coaches are obligated to field questions from sideline reporters, sometimes at the most inopportune moments. And in Pop’s case, that is when it is most likely a journalist will feel his wrath.
Such was the case during the 2013 Western Conference Finals for ESPN’s Doris Burke, when she attempted to interview Popovich and received two one-word answers to what she thought were legitimate questions.
Burke discussed how devastated she felt immediately after the interview during a Grantland podcast of “The Lowe Post” (via Sporting News):
“Two words. I was devastated. It was brutal. It was absolutely brutal. I was almost in tears. I go back to where I sit, and I’m trying to compose myself, because I thought I asked two pretty good questions and those were the responses I got. Literally, blinking back tears,” she said.
But to assume that Burke doesn’t hold a favorable opinion of Popovich — or at worst, downright hate the guy — would be incorrect. In fact, she actually likes him quite a bit.
Burke told another story during the podcast about how the man we all see blowing off reporters and giving terse, aggravated responses during pressers isn’t the Popovich she has come to know behind the scenes.
“As Lisa Salters calls it, we’ve all been ‘Pop’d.'”, Burke said. “It’s never really pleasant, but we all adore him.”
“After the NBA Finals last year, he goes out of his way — he’s walking out of American Airlines Arena. He’s just lost Game 7 after the torturous way he loses Game 6. We’ve had all those sideline interviews and I step back to let him go. I step back because I’m trying to be respectful of a man whose just lost what you pour your heart and soul into for eight or nine months of the year,” Burke continued. “And he drops his bags en route to the bus to take them home to San Antonio and proceeds to grab me by the shoulders and asks me what I’m going to do for the summer. You know he’s a huge wine aficionado … He stopped me and I told him I happened to be going near wine country and was going to spend a few days. He wouldn’t let me leave until I promised that I would contact him and he would suggest and help me to get into all these wineries. This is the kind of man he is. My kids get upset with the interviews, and I say please don’t judge Pop on those. That’s not reflect of who the man is.”
Fans occasionally see behind the curtain — or better put, wall — Popovich erects in between himself and the media — as was the case when he warmly sent his best wishes to Craig Sager as he was interviewed by Sager’s son while the veteran reporter was receiving leukemia treatments — so perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that beneath the crabby exterior, Popovich has a heart of gold.