Gregg Popovich: Stan Van Gundy “Is Finally A Free Man”

10.11.12 7 years ago

Gregg Popovich is the Most Interesting Coach In The World. From his job monitoring Soviet intelligence to the small-market dynasty he’s coached in San Antonio, Popovich has the evergreen success, tenure and the temperament to not really care what most people (save for GM R.C. Buford) think about him. Thus, he gives great interviews — save that they’re not sideline talks between quarters (more on that in a second). In his appearance on 790 The Ticket in Miami Wednesday his most interesting answers came about Stan Van Gundy and the presidential debate.

Most relevant to basketball was his impressions from watching the drama in Orlando develop last season as Dwight Howard made it clear he wouldn’t return.

“It was agony. It was agony because when one of your colleagues, this is no BS, but when one of your colleagues is as gifted as Stan and does as good of a job as he did and then every day is just this saga that won’t go away it’s no fun for anybody. You have to go to work every day, hear that, be a part of it, you have to try to be above it, you have to do your job, your team has to play hard for ya and it’s really an impossible situation. George Karl went through that in Denver. It’s bad for everybody so I’m just glad that he is finally a free man.”

Popovich doesn’t talk from experience here, of course. The most distraction he’s had to cope with as coach is Stephen Jackson‘s arrival on the team, and their differences have never risen above some questionable shot selection and music tastes, and now DeJuan Blair‘s public unhappiness. He’s a lot like SVG in that neither will mince words and both have won a ton, but Pop has the backing of arguably the best player of his era, Tim Duncan. SVG’s plain-spoken honesty about dealing with Howard has blackballed him for at least a season from the sideline. SVG is no more a free man now than he was 12 months ago in terms of his proclivity to speak his mind — you would not have to argue hard to say he’s actually invited controversy to linger because of his anti-Magic comments since his firing — but he doesn’t have to fear the Sword of Damocles now.

About that backing from Duncan: Popovich says that the central reason wy they’ve gotten along so well is that Duncan meshes with the small-market attitude perfectly.

“Secondly we’ve had guys over the years that are, they’re no better than anybody else, but their personalities are such that they don’t really look for the limelight. Tim Duncan, the last time he talked to me was like three months ago.”

The other memorable part of the interview is how Popovich’s wife gets upset with him for his treatment of sideline reporters. Popovich knows a thing or two about interviews — he made his team watch the first presidential debate for team-building — but he says he could do a better job putting a more, um, human face on his soundbites.

“I know. I’m a jerk. I’m going to go ahead and admit it publically to the whole world. Tell me what to do. What should I do? The quarter ends, you just got outscored by 12 points, they had eight offensive rebounds so the question will be ‘you just got outrebounded by X amount so what are you going to do about it?’ I don’t know. Am I going to make a trade during the timeout? I don’t know. I’m going to do drills here for a while by the time the game starts, I don’t know. I’m not going to do anything. I’m just going to go back to the bench and hope we play better. I don’t know how to answer so sue me for being stupid and not having the answers to the questions. (Host: Keep doing it, it’s entertaining.) It entertains everybody but my wife. When I get home and she says ‘geez why are you so mean? You’re a jerk, people hate you.’ I go I’m sorry honey, I have to do better next time.”

H/t ProBasketballTalk and Sports Radio Interviews

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