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Spurs coach Popovich: “Sometimes in timeouts I’ll say, ‘I’ve got nothing for you.'”

Mar 5, 2014, 6:44 PM EDT

Gregg Popovich AP

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has a reputation of being difficult to deal with if you’re a member of the media, but a lot of that is situational.

There’s almost nothing to be gleaned from in-game interviews between quarters, for example, so Popovich treats those with the respect they deserve. Other times, he’s been known to ridicule reporters for asking less than creative questions, and I’ve personally seen him respond to a post-game query with nothing more than 20-30 seconds of uncomfortable silence.

But I’ve also seen Popovich be engaging when the mood is right, or when the right questions are being asked. Those things came together Tuesday before San Antonio’s win over the Cavaliers, when the coach spoke honestly about how he’s gotten his players to take ownership of the offense.

From Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:

Q. How do you get players to take ownership of the offense? Is it a confidence thing?

Popovich: “That’s a good question. A lot depends on the competitiveness and the character of the player. Often times, I’ll appeal to that. Like, I can’t make every decision for you. I don’t have 14 timeouts. You guys got to get together and talk. You guys might see a mismatch that I don’t see. You guys need to communicate constantly — talk, talk, talk to each other about what’s going on on the court.

“I think that communication thing really helps them. It engenders a feeling that they can actually be in charge. I think competitive character people don’t want to be manipulated constantly to do what one individual wants them to do. It’s a great feeling when players get together and do things as a group. Whatever can be done to empower those people …

“Sometimes in timeouts I’ll say, ‘I’ve got nothing for you. What do you want me to do? We just turned it over six times. Everybody’s holding the ball. What else do you want me to do here? Figure it out.’ And I’ll get up and walk away. Because it’s true. There’s nothing else I can do for them. I can give them some bulls—, and act like I’m a coach or something, but it’s on them.

There’s more, and the entire Q + A is worth a read. What’s most interesting, however, is hearing one of the most well-respected coaches in the game explain that there’s only so much he can do, and sometimes, it’s up to the players themselves to figure things out.

  1. calkinsrob - Mar 5, 2014 at 7:44 PM

    I always love to watch and rewatch nba legends hall of fame speeches lol. There are certain ones that I just love to watch to see how down to earth some of my idols are/were. I cant wait to hear Pop’s speech, Id love to hear some funny stories on how he runs the team.

  2. chucknorrissinspiration - Mar 5, 2014 at 9:07 PM

    Pop>Phil J

    • psung26 - Mar 6, 2014 at 9:53 AM

      lol please Spurs fan troll: Phil Jackson wrote the book on letting players figure it for themselves. He one-ups Pop by not even calling the time outs in the first place

      Phil Jackson is widely considered the best coach in ALL of team sports. His 11 championship rings is a record not just in the NBA, but in any professional team sport.

      Pops is a sterling coach, but at best he can play 1B to Phil’s 1A. And I emphasize, at. best.

      • psung26 - Mar 6, 2014 at 9:57 AM

        p.s. Phil got 5 of those 11 rings at the expense of Pop and the Spurs. Their head to head record in the playoffs is 4W 1L in Phil’s favor. That means Pop lost 4 out of 5 times facing Phil’s Lakers. You can go back into your cave now.

      • adoombray - Mar 6, 2014 at 1:26 PM

        Phil Jackson never developed talent the way Pop has, had 6456456324235363456456345 times the resources available to him, and the two best players ever to play basketball. Pop’s only built in advantage has been Tim Duncan. Ginobli, Parker, and all those bench players that step up when needed are good because of Pop. PJ was good because of his players and I don’t think he deserves credit for being good at coddling stars.

      • psung26 - Mar 6, 2014 at 5:53 PM

        @adoombray

        You lost me when you told me Pop’s “only” advantage has been Tim Duncan. All coaches need great talent to win and need HOF talent to win it all. Pop is not an exception to the rule; he’s an example of it. You say Ginobli, Parker, and all those bench players stepped up because of Pop. I can mirror your arugment and say Steve Kerr, Rick Fox, Derek Fisher, and all those bench players stepped up because of PJ.

        Actually I take it back, you lost me when you said Phil Jackson had 6456456324235363456456345 times the resources available to him. Sounds like small market hyperbole to me. This isn’t baseball where the Yankees just outspend the small market teams.

        Team salaries for years Phil Jackson and Pop have gone head to head in playoffs:

        2000-2001 (W to Phil)
        Los Angeles Lakers: $58.7 million
        San Antonio Spurs: $57.2 million

        2001-2002 (W to Phil)
        Los Angeles Lakers: $53.4 million
        San Antonio Spurs: $45.7 million

        2002-2003 (L to Phil)
        Los Angeles Lakers: $62.7 million
        San Antonio Spurs: $52.7 million

        2003-2004 (W to Phil)
        Los Angeles Lakers: $63.3 million
        San Antonio Spurs: $46.1 million

        2007-2008 (W to Phil)
        Los Angeles Lakers: $72.6 million
        San Antonio Spurs: $69.8 million

        That $1.5 million difference in 2001 and $2.8 million in 2008 really shows how Phil had “6456456324235363456456345 times” the resources as Pop did.

        4 to 1 – head to head in Phil’s favor
        11 to 4 – career championship titles

        Please troll elsewhere Spurs fans.

  3. casualcommenter - Mar 5, 2014 at 9:59 PM

    Not a Spurs fan, but one of my favorite Pop timeout speeches was within the past year. I forget the opponent, but the Spurs had turned over the ball 3 times in a row on offense, and Pop called a timeout.

    After the commercial break, the TNT broadcast then shows the timeout huddle. All Pop says is, “Come on guys, it’s basketball. It’s not that complicated.”

    And that’s it. Lol.

  4. dinofrank60 - Mar 5, 2014 at 10:53 PM

    Please don’t say it during the NBA Finals…

  5. 00maltliquor - Mar 6, 2014 at 2:13 AM

    That kind of strategy only really works when you got the OG vet leadership core that’s been together for a decade like he has. Try saying, “I got nothing for you” to SAC or CLE. Not gonna have the same effect.

    • robones - Mar 6, 2014 at 9:06 AM

      well duh! he knows the people he’s coaching so he knows what works best for HIS particular team. Goes for any coach in the league or any coach from pee wee basketball and up.

  6. eugenesaxe1 - Mar 6, 2014 at 3:55 AM

    He shouldn’t have to say anything, except on the nights he’s resting the geezers.

  7. themagicfanguy - Mar 6, 2014 at 8:14 AM

    …coming from Pop it probably would have the same effect, no matter which team.

  8. gmsingh123 - Mar 6, 2014 at 8:35 AM

    Sometimes his players go back on the court and say “I’ve got nothing for you either.”

  9. joshm5683 - Mar 6, 2014 at 9:06 AM

    As a Lakers fan I really hate the Spurs, but I really do have a lot of respect for Pop, Duncan, and the organization. They do it without the glut of resources and location that some of the big markets have. Pop seems to always have a good idea of what buttons to push and who can be pushed and how hard. Will be a sad day for the NBA when hes gone.

  10. Eternal Optimist - Mar 6, 2014 at 11:59 AM

    I’ve got nothing to respond to these posts . . . you guys figure it out.

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