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Popovich believes foreign coaches can thrive in NBA — if they get a chance

Oct 10, 2013, 2:05 PM EDT

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Just a quick glance down the Spurs roster — Tony Parker, Nando De Colo and Boris Diaw from France; Manu Ginobili from Argentina; Marco Belinelli from Italy; Tiago Splitter from Brazil; Patty Mills from Australia — and you know Gregg Popovich and the Spurs brain trust believes some foreign coaches are getting it right.

From there, how big a leap is it to one or more of coaches leading a team in the NBA?

While there are still some NBA decision makers who don’t believe a European coach’s style of play or work, or that he would struggle to relate to American players, Popovich is not among them. Look at what he told the Express-News’s Spurs blog.

“A lot of guys could be coaching in our league,” he said. “Basketball has become an international sport. The coaches have improved all over the world, just like players have. There are good coaches and good players no matter where one might look.”

This comes up as the Spurs squeaked out a 95-93 win over CSKA Moscow Wednesday, a team coached by the legendary Ettore Messina. He came as close as any foreign coach to landing an American head coaching job when he spent a season as an assistant with the Lakers. But that stay lasted just one season.

Messina thinks it will be a “long time” before someone else gets a chance. Popovich thinks it depends on the organization.

Said Popovich, “”A team just has to have guts.”

Guts and the right management, looking to bring in the right players to fit the system. Give a top European coach a team with talent — say the Thunder or Heat or Spurs — and they could win, if they can get buy in from the players. If the respect is there. The right coach can earn that.

Of course, the real fast track for a foreign coach who wants an American gig would be to become one of Popovich’s assistants — Jacque Vaughn, Mike Budenholzer and Brett Brown all got head coaching jobs in the last two years. The Popovich stamp of approval is like a Golden Ticket into Willy Wonka’s factory.

  1. antistratfordian - Oct 10, 2013 at 3:36 PM

    Interesting aside:

    The only foreign born head coach with a championship ring is Edward “Mr. Basketball” Gottlieb. Born in Kiev in 1898.

  2. kingbeason52 - Oct 10, 2013 at 5:11 PM

    Whats up with Popovich and his outspoken love to “foreign” people..we heard the same thing about players a few months ago..If your good at basketball and have the knowledge then you will be successful in the NBA..that is what matters

    • redbaronx - Oct 10, 2013 at 10:55 PM

      @kingbeason52 – What is “up with Popovich” is that he loves the game, and realizes that foreign players and coaches can only elevate the game and promote fundamental basketball skills which the Europeans are very good at.

      • kingbeason52 - Oct 10, 2013 at 11:12 PM

        I wasn’t implying it as a negative thing..but for a guy that does not speak a lot…praising foreign people seems to be a hot subject for him…and you were missing my point..it shouldn’t matter if you are foreign or not..it should matter about the capabilities you can bring to an organization in reference to a player or coach..also I don’t hear many people bashing foreign people and what they can bring to basketball in the U.S. yet he seems to continues to need to give his stamp of approval..I like Popovich I was just making an observation.

      • redbaronx - Oct 11, 2013 at 1:50 PM

        @kingbeason52 – I understood your comment perfectly, and I didn’t think you were being negative. It DOESN’T matter if players are foreign or not, and Popovich doesn’t judge them that way.

        But what he does do is find guys that can play within the team concept and know fundamentals like the Pick and Roll, boxing out, etc. So he finds guys that work in the system. And that is the point I was trying to make to you. In a lot of cases the guys he’s going to like are going to be European.

  3. franbotel - Oct 11, 2013 at 5:41 AM

    The only way they thrive is if they coach a team with great players. In basketball the players matter more that the coach.

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