It came in the fourth quarter of San Antonio’s 112 – 79 blowout of the still-reeling Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night. Boban Morjanovic went to the free-throw line and heard “MVP” chants from the quiet arena (you have to turn your volume way up on the above video, since the “chants” weren’t very loud). You know Boban, we mentioned those insanely huge hands he has earlier in the week. We weren’t the only ones. Well, the backup Spurs center has developed a cult following in San Antonio, and while it’s mostly in fun, Boban’s Hall-of-Fame-bound coach isn’t a big fan.
“Sometimes it actually worries me,” Popovich said of the phenomenon that has come to be known as “Boban Mania.” “I think the crowd, they really get a kick out of him and all that, but he’s a basketball player. He’s not some sort of an odd thing.”
“He’s a hard worker and he’s a really intelligent kid and he wants it badly,” Popovich said. “I think you can get off your game when people cheer in a certain way, over the line, for no reason.”
Pop isn’t kidding about how badly the 7’3 Serbian center works. The 27-year-old can play.
But the fact he brought up the nefarious side of the chants shows how understanding and caring Popovich really is under that rough facade he often portrays during interviews. The Spurs helmsman cares about his players way more than an average fan might grasp, especially if that fan only sees him screaming at them for missing a defensive rotation.
The psychological understanding of what some sardonic chanting during a blowout can do is incredibly astute and highlights Popovich’s emotional intelligence. He understands personal and social dynamics as well as any coach in the Association and this sort of ironic and — we’re guessing harmlessly jubilant — chanting can psych a young player out, too, even if it wasn’t intended that way.
Boban mania is fine, but when combined with the Internet’s collective marveling at his size, it’s got the trajectory to morph San Antonio’s talented backup center into some sort of freak. And that’s when he turns into a sideshow rather than a member of the Spurs. Popovich can’t have that.
This is the same coach who made his team — up 61-33 — watch game film at halftime on Wednesday night, too.
“We showed (players) some clips at halftime of things we had to do better,” Popovich said. “That’s how your team gets better. You can’t just assume because you won everything is good and if you lose everything is bad.”
By now, the most veteran of Spurs players have come to learn the method behind Popovich’s occasional bouts of stark-raving madness.
“He wants us to be better in April, not today,” Ginobili said. “That’s the goal.
Gregg Popovich might always be the cranky old man on your TV screen, but he’ll always be completely invested in his players’ emotional and physical well being. You can’t ask for a better coach than that.
(Via San Antonio Express News)