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Gregg Popovich was on fire at first Finals press conference

Jun 5, 2013, 4:16 PM EDT

Gregg Popovich AP

I pity the sideline reporter who gets to talk to Gregg Popovich in game Thursday night, they will be lucky to get a sentence out of the guy.

However, when Popovich is in the mood to talk, he is both funny and insightful. It’s the side we always hear about — Popovich is a guy that everyone close to him loves as a great guy, but the public mostly sees a curmudgeonly exterior.

Wednesday, at the first NBA Finals press conference, Popovich stole the show. Here are the highlights:

On listing Tim Duncan as “DNP-OLD” last year when sitting him out a game: “He loved it. He thought it was funny as hell. There were some others who did not enjoy it, but Timmy got a kick out of it and I got a kick out of it. It was fun. And it was true. He was older than dirt. That’s the deal. He was tired that night. He’s old. So I could have lied. I could have said he has a broken ankle or something. I just said he’s old.

On saying why he wanted years back to get Jason Kidd to mentor Tony Parker: “My illustrious NBA career ended a week and a half. So what the hell am I going to teach him about being a point guard? That was a joke. That was a joke. I thought that Jason Kidd being there, being the mentally tough person that he is and with his skills, that would be the greatest education for Tony Parker.”

On how these Spurs with Duncan, Tony Parker and Many Ginobili have sustained greatness for more than a decade: “I think that it’s a real simple answer. Nobody really likes it. They want me to say something different. It’s a total function of who those three guys are. What if they were jerks? What if they were selfish? What if one of them was, you know, unintelligent? If, if, if. But the way it works out, all three of them are highly intelligent. They all have great character. They appreciate their teammates’ success. They feel responsible to each other. They feel responsible to Patty Mills or to Danny Green. That’s who they are and how they’re built. I think when you have three guys like that, you’re able to build something over time.

“So I think it’s just a matter of being really, really fortunate to have three people who understand that and who commit to a system and a philosophy for that length of time. I don’t know what else to tell you. It’s on them.”

Talking about when Popovich called up to congratulate Pat Riley after the Heat signed LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in the same summer: “Well, you know, I still call him Coach Riley. I can’t help it. I guess he’s Executive Coach Riley and all that, slash whatever. But he’s been a competitor obviously his whole career since he was a player in college and beyond. He put together a team fairly, within the rules, that is a monster. So why wouldn’t he get credit for that? Why wouldn’t you congratulate him for that?

“So I did. I always respected his competitiveness and how he ran things in New York and L.A. and so on and so forth. And as an executive he’s done the same thing. He lets people do what they do, puts things together, and he put together a hell of a team. And so I called him to thank him because I respect him so much not to thank him, but to congratulate him. That’s the last thing I do is thank him for doing that.”

  1. bucrightoff - Jun 5, 2013 at 4:20 PM

    Gregg Popovich: Terrorizing Sideline Reporters Since 2008

  2. ProBasketballPundit - Jun 5, 2013 at 7:21 PM

    Popovich could win coach of the year every single year. I don’t know how much his offense resembles Phil Jackson’s triangle but some of the mechanics and goals are the same: use spacing and passing to force defenses into reaction-mode, then take advantage. Popovich doesn’t care what five guys he has on the court, he demands the same commitment to their philosophy. Tony Parker would certainly average 10+ assists on most teams but the Spurs rely on the second and third pass, thus involving everybody and wearing out the defense. It’s just beautiful to watch.

  3. titansbro - Jun 6, 2013 at 7:12 AM

    Too bad David Stern hates them for being a boring small market team, they play basketball the way it should be played. Not enough dunks & gold chains I suppose.

  4. bobth1019 - Jun 8, 2013 at 9:14 AM

    What a great boss this man is…very obvious to see why players must trust him implicitly and want to play for the Spurs

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