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Popovich said he’s not over Game 6 yet, but daughter’s sharp words helped

Sep 19, 2013, 1:56 PM EDT

BKN-NBA-FINALS-SPURS-HEAT-GAME 6 Getty Images

If Gregg Popovich didn’t struggle to get the memory of Game 6 of the NBA Finals out of his head all summer there would be something wrong with him.

You don’t get to be an NBA coach, let alone an elite one, without being very competitive. So to come within seconds of an NBA title only to watch that slip through your grasp on missed free throws, surrendering an offensive rebound and a game-tying three has to sting.

With the season starting up he is getting over it — in part thanks to his daughter Jill telling him to get over himself. Buck Harvey at the San Antonio Express-News sat down with Popovich and got him to tell the story.

“OK, Dad, let me get this straight: You won four championships, and you go to a fifth Finals. Other coaches lose all the time. But poor Greggy can’t lose because he’s special. Can you please get over yourself? End of story.”

He stared at her — then started laughing. Hadn’t his daughter told him the same get-over-yourself line he’s told so many others?

“That started me on the path to recovery,” he said.

Popovich’s daughter sounds a whole lot like Popovich. The apple falls near the tree and all that.

Competitors tend to dwell on hard losses more than wins — talk to a professional poker player and they tend to gloss over their victories but will give you ever detail of a bad beat. That sting lasts. It will with Popovich.

The only thing that will really help is a new season and a new challenge. That starts in a couple weeks. And the Spurs are once again title contenders.

  1. pistol7pete - Sep 19, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree

    • adamsjohn714 - Sep 19, 2013 at 7:49 PM

      hahahha yeah. “the apple falls near the tree” WHAT?

  2. ProBasketballPundit - Sep 19, 2013 at 2:22 PM

    Though I consider myself a fan of NBA basketball, I could never pull for the Spurs. The last couple seasons have won me over. The 2013 NBA Finals are the best I’ve ever seen and the Spurs 49.9% deserved to win… but unfortunately for them the Heat 50.1% deserved to win. Popovich is an incredible coach and it was obvious by how his team played. Their passing and quick decision making had the Heat’s defense frozen in its tracks.

  3. fotydaze - Sep 19, 2013 at 2:37 PM

    You’re not supposed to get over it. IT’S supposed to motivate you to succeed this season. Ask Magic has he gotten over losing to Boston in 84 and what motivated him to beat them in 85

  4. jimsjam33 - Sep 19, 2013 at 2:43 PM

    Great story about the best coach in the world right now ! Sorry Phil , you’re not coaching right now and Johnny Wooden is dead .

  5. bucrightoff - Sep 19, 2013 at 2:45 PM

    So like back in the day if his daughter missed dinner, did Pop go with the DNE – Not here? Did he rest her during the irrelevant times of the year at school so she was prepared for her Finals?

    • adamsjohn714 - Sep 19, 2013 at 7:50 PM

      haha too many thumbs down for an insightful joke.

  6. uscoach - Sep 19, 2013 at 3:47 PM

    That’s what people who don’t win Championships say.

  7. antistratfordian - Sep 19, 2013 at 4:17 PM

    I figured that this would happen to the Spurs – perhaps a result of Pop nurturing an environment of acceptable losing over the last 5 years or so.

    Bear with me on this:

    During that early season situation with Pop sending players back to San Antonio I quipped about how this may lead to them crumbling when the pressure was elevated because he had subconsciously conditioned his team to believe that losing was acceptable. That every game wasn’t important. And I had noticed that the Spurs had quietly built the habit of disappointing in the playoffs (quietly = avoiding all media criticism) and I wondered if his pride in player minute reduction had become a contributing factor.

    Players should have the attitude of “I need to play every game” but the Spurs don’t because they believe that Pop – in all his genius – knows better. They trust him implicitly. But when you’re in a dogfight deep in the playoffs you obviously need a genuine “die hard; never die easy” attitude and that comes by reinforcing that behavior throughout the season, and through multiple seasons. Pop seems to take that for granted.

    Think about how the Heat came back against Cleveland last year after being down almost 30 points late in the 3rd quarter. Think about all of their improbable comebacks during the 27 game winning streak. But the Heat were criticized for taking the regular season too seriously. “Shouldn’t they be resting?”, they said. “It’s only the regular season.” On the other hand Pop is always commended for being “smart” with his players’ schedules by having both the old and young ones miss games they were healthy enough to play. But how did it work out? The same way it always works out these days for the Spurs.

    So it’s no wonder that the Miami “Never Say Die” Heat would be the team to pull off something like Game 6 and that the San Antonio “Go ahead and take the week off, Tony” Spurs would be the team to let it slip away.

    • Kurt Helin - Sep 19, 2013 at 4:39 PM

      Spoelstra rested his key players a lot as well, not just the injured Wade but LeBron, Bosh and others. You are really reaching here (to put it kindly).

      • eventhorizon04 - Sep 19, 2013 at 5:19 PM

        I’m a Heat fan.

        The Heat rested key players throughout the 2012-2013 regular season, including Wade, LeBron, Bosh, and Mike Miller – whom Eric Spoelstra openly admitted that he kept on the bench because of Miller’s habit of getting injured in the regular season.

        The Heat didn’t care about regular season games until the win streak started almost by accident. At that point, they began putting a ton of effort into maintaining the streak. After the Bulls ended the streak, the Heat began resting players almost immediately. Suddenly, LeBron had a hamstring injury, Bosh had “leg fatigue,” etc.

        Calling the original comment “a reach” is incredibly generous.

      • antistratfordian - Sep 19, 2013 at 6:04 PM

        Well you know what they say: A reach today is a truth tomorrow.

        I’ve brought up my theory about the harm that Pop’s misplaced pride in unnecessarily resting players may be doing to his team and it’s always met with the same reaction. However, I still think Pop’s ever escalating emphasis on this “technique” has contributed to the Spurs new found reputation as (and I hate this word) “chokers.” And I also don’t think the subconscious is considered enough in sports – if at all – and I am okay with being one of the few who even talks about the game at that level.

        And you cannot really argue sameness with Spoelstra and Pop as it regards to their player management. There is a big difference between resting LeBron at the end of the season after the 27 game win streak has been snapped and the seeding has been determined, and sending a healthy Danny Green home with a healthy Parker, Duncan and Ginobili early in the season to avoid a primetime matchup against the defending champions. Pop assumes that deliberately neglecting big regular season games will not adversely affect his team in the long run. Spoelstra does not do this.

        Wade is rested because he has a legitimately troublesome knee(s). Duncan was rested only because he was 36-37, and he sat for that reason alone just a few weeks into the season. Parker is only 30, he should never miss a game that he’s healthy enough to play.

        Either on the Cavs or the Heat the majority of LeBron’s DNPs came at the tail end of the season, when every high seeded playoff team is expected to rest their key players if positions are locked. But this is not Popalicious enough for Gregg Popovich. Like his daughter said, Greggy thinks he’s special and that he has a special formula, but he needs to get over himself or it will be more of the same.

    • eventhorizon04 - Sep 19, 2013 at 5:15 PM

      You’re drawing a lot of conclusions ultimately based on the fact that Ray Allen made a contested 3-point shot with 5 seconds left in the fourth quarter of game 6. Without that shot, The “Never Say Die Heat”….die.

      • antistratfordian - Sep 22, 2013 at 5:09 PM

        You’re only saying “without Miami’s ‘never say die’ attitude they would… die” which is a point I already made.

        The Spurs lost because they didn’t have it.

    • adamsjohn714 - Sep 19, 2013 at 7:54 PM

      questioning Pop, after the resume he’s put together, is borderline blasphemous. The man has a decade’s history of playing his best players and improving player performance throughout the years. The only guy to get better after leaving the Spurs is George Hill (and they got Kawhi Leonard for him!!!!).

      • antistratfordian - Sep 19, 2013 at 8:24 PM

        “questioning Pop, after the resume he’s put together, is borderline blasphemous.”

        Yeah, that’s the problem. It’s almost like challenging Newtonians during Early Enlightenment. But Newtonianism didn’t have all the answers and neither does Pop. And you’re still here talking about criticism being “blasphemous” even though Pop was arguably out-coached by Spo in the finals, and even though Pop has arguably been out-coached by several perceived lesser coaches over the last 5 years.

      • adamsjohn714 - Sep 19, 2013 at 8:31 PM

        except I’m basing Pop’s credentials over his career, not a series (which is a ridiculously tiny sample size). The odds that the Heat pull out a victory in game 6 with 25 seconds left down by 5 are miniscule. The Heat winning game 6 is a lot of luck. And either way, Losing/Winning is completely irrelevant. The only real way to judge a coach is by seeing if they play their best players the most/improve players when they come to the team.

        There isn’t any scientific/mathematical breakthrough when it comes to basketball. Pop has it figured out, and maximizes his team’s potential.

      • antistratfordian - Sep 19, 2013 at 8:50 PM

        “The Heat winning game 6 is a lot of luck.”

        “Luck favors the prepared” – Louis Pasteur

        The Heat won that game because they knew, starting early in the 4th, that they could. They won 27 straight games climbing out of bigger holes than that.

        On the other hand, the Spurs lost that game in regulation. They were done after Ray hit that three. You could see it in their body language. The game was tied but they were already feeling sorry for themselves.

        “except I’m basing Pop’s credentials over his career”

        Please stop acting like Popovich has 8-10 rings and that his coaching techniques are literally flawless. He has 4 rings, and he has never even won back-to-back. Spoelstra will have a 3-peat by the end of this year. That is not just because Spo has LeBron. It’s partly to do with the fact that he doesn’t do things like take his best players off the floor on the most important plays of the game.

        Tim Duncan is an unreal two-way player and would’ve at least won back-to-back if he was being coached by, say, Phil Jackson… imho. And Jackson was a coach who let his older teams go all out during the regular season.

      • adamsjohn714 - Sep 19, 2013 at 8:59 PM

        Please stop acting like rings are the sole achievement of a coach. Pop would be a great coach even if he never made the playoffs. Having great players is a requirement to win. A coach doesn’t pick his roster. Playing the best players on your roster the most minutes is the best thing a coach can do. Improving the players on his roster is the next best thing a coach can do. Pop routinely does these things. other coaches don’t. For instance, Spo didn’t play Birdman nearly enough in the playoffs, even though he was fantastic

    • kawhynot - Sep 21, 2013 at 4:38 PM

      such gracious winners, those heat fans.

    • kawhynot - Sep 21, 2013 at 4:43 PM

      spoelstra won ONLY because he has lebron and wade. kinda like jackson with jordan and kobe.

      Let’s see him take unknowns in the draft and come up with a parker, ginobili, leonard, etc.

      • Kurt Helin - Sep 22, 2013 at 12:14 PM

        Let’s see Popovich win without Duncan.

        No coach ever won without elite talent. EVER. To suggest otherwise is foolish.

      • kawhynot - Sep 22, 2013 at 12:56 PM

        Kurt,

        Obviously, I know that. And even more obviously, you completely missed the point.

      • antistratfordian - Sep 22, 2013 at 4:11 PM

        Pop has Tim Duncan. Spoelstra doesn’t even have a center or a true big. His best big man thinks he’s a shooting guard and is afraid to bang. After 2011 Spo completely changed everything about the Heat’s offense. He had to nearly revolutionize the game in order to win championships via his “positionless” basketball and his pace and space offense. LeBron didn’t become this complete on his own – he was motivated by Spo to play more PF in order to make his offense hum. And defensively Spo is as sound as any great defensive coach.

        Spo is a great coach and he out-coached Pop in the Finals.

  8. legend30 - Sep 19, 2013 at 9:26 PM

    I miss the NBA… One more month!

  9. canehouse - Sep 20, 2013 at 10:22 AM

    He probably can’t get over the fact that he pulled Duncan… had Duncan been in does Bosh get the rebound??? We will never know and nor will Pop.

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