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Mavericks’ Rick Carlisle on Spurs’ Gregg Popovich: ‘Why don’t we just give him Coach of the Century?’

Apr 23, 2014, 4:01 PM EDT

Rick Carlisle AP

Gregg Popovich was named Coach of the Year on Tuesday after guiding the Spurs to the league’s best record while having none of his players average more than 30 minutes per game.

San Antonio made it to the Finals a season ago, so it’s not like Popovich worked miracles in this particular campaign to get his team back to the top of the standings. But as Kurt Helin summed up in the original post on Popovich winning the award, that’s where his genius lies.

“What he has done in San Antonio took years — he has built a culture and system that can plug in the right players and get them playing to their strengths. He’s built a selfless system and gotten players willing to share the rock — “great not good” is the mantra and the players buy in, moving off the ball and making the extra pass.”

The Spurs are in the playoffs for the 17th straight season, and they don’t barely sneak in, either. San Antonio has posted at least 50 wins in all but one of those years, with the lone exception being the 37-13 record the club posted in the lockout-shortened, 1999 season — the year the Spurs won their first title.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, facing Popovich in the first round of the playoffs, seems to understand the magnitude of his opponent’s accomplishments.

From Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas:

“Why don’t we just give him Coach of the Century?” Carlisle said after Wednesday’s shootaround at the AT&T Center before Game 2 of the Spurs-Mavs series. “I mean, he’s the greatest. Obviously, [Coach of the Year is] very well deserved. They were almost a wire-to-wire top seed in the league, and he’s the best. He’s the best.”

This was essentially my argument in not picking Popovich on my nonexistent Coach of the Year ballot. This year, there were others more deserving. But certainly, not this century.

  1. pharohislife - Apr 23, 2014 at 4:16 PM

    Because Phil too, was also in this Century.

    • asimonetti88 - Apr 23, 2014 at 5:47 PM

      Pretty much.

    • the1nonlyk - Apr 23, 2014 at 7:52 PM

      forget phil he doesnt even think the spurs r a dynasty since they havent won back to back titles. whatevs phil! im sure ud looooovvveee pop to coach ur knicks!!

    • pharohislife - Apr 23, 2014 at 9:17 PM

      A lot of Phil Love here

    • macka4 - Jun 17, 2014 at 6:43 PM

      Only Auerbach rates with Pop. They each built an organization, from top to bottom, more or less. Not just an outstanding team of players.

  2. antistratfordian - Apr 23, 2014 at 4:32 PM

    So they’ve been in the playoffs 17 consecutive seasons? What a coincidence! That is exactly how long Tim Duncan has been in the league. Pop has been their head coach for 18 seasons (without Timmy he only won 17 games :().

    Pop is overrated. He needs to stop getting out-coached in the playoffs and holding Duncan back. And maybe win back-to-back rings one of these days? He definitely has the talent to do that, so I don’t know what his problem is.

    • reesesteel23 - Apr 23, 2014 at 4:46 PM

      Lol…I mean come on man

      • antistratfordian - Apr 23, 2014 at 4:56 PM

        Is that an argument? “Come on man”?

        Pop completely folded under pressure last year in the finals, and it wasn’t the first time he’s done that in the playoffs recently. So I can’t feel comfortable about calling this guy the greatest coach ever just because he’s won at least 50 games (arbitrary) for however many consecutive seasons – but then gets to the playoffs and coaches himself into a corner. And I really could care less about the so-called culture of the Spurs, which is supposed to be something exceptional, except the culture of other teams have been more successful.

        I think what people REALLY mean to say is that the combination of consistent winning and reduced egos makes them like the Spurs more. Not that they are the best winners, but that they have found a balance with players that irritates the senses the least. Which is kind of racist, but that’s another topic.

        Also, as a fan of Tim Duncan, I’m getting tired of Pop taking so much of the credit that should be his, while no one is stating the obvious, which is that Pop’s poor coaching has directly led to Duncan having less hardware.

        I can go on and on about Popovich and this blind faith surrounding his coaching prowess. Most people just parrot what other people say about him – they don’t really know what they’re looking at when it comes to any coach.

      • bucrightoff - Apr 23, 2014 at 5:08 PM

        Keep trollin, trollin, trolling….

    • cruzan80 - Apr 23, 2014 at 4:47 PM

      Well, we may not know what the “problem” is…..but at least now all know who should get the “Dumbest Comment of the Century” award…good job sir.

      • antistratfordian - Apr 23, 2014 at 4:57 PM

        Yeah, well, my “dumb” comments have this odd habit of always being right in hindsight.

      • casualcommenter - Apr 23, 2014 at 9:28 PM

        “Yeah, well, my “dumb” comments have this odd habit of always being right in hindsight. ”

        “The league will apologize within 24 hours for not calling a foul on the Plumlee block on LeBron.” – antistratfordian

        “It was close, but there was no foul. Good block.” – NBA

        “See guys, I was right!” – antistratfordian

    • au1978 - Apr 23, 2014 at 5:15 PM

      I agree. Pop has had the same core team for years. It’s easy to plug folks into a “system” that revolves around 3 players year in and year out. Most coaches would love to have that, but don’t. Doesn’t take away from his accomplishments this year, though I would have picked Hornacek for number one, then Pop and Thib for close runners-up.

    • bougin89 - Apr 23, 2014 at 5:31 PM

      I think I have found the reason you dislike Pop so much…and it should have been so clear all along.

      The Spurs beat the Lebron lead Cavs in the finals and denied Lebron his first ring that year.

      Let go of the resentment, Anti. Just let it go man…

      • antistratfordian - Apr 23, 2014 at 5:38 PM

        Ha. I didn’t even think about that. And why would I be such a fan of Duncan if that were the case?

        I’ve just seen too much of this nonsense over the last 6 years and it’s coming to a head this year. I’ve watched Pop get out-coached year after year, and yet during the next regular season the same praise is laid upon.

        I think the last straw for me really is what he did in Game 6 of the Finals. After that I’d completely written him off, I think. I was completely dumbfounded. I bet Duncan’s girlfriend has heard a few of the same things I’m saying here.

      • bougin89 - Apr 24, 2014 at 9:54 AM

        While I agree the Spurs gave last years finals away and Popovich does deserve some(definitely not all) the criticism for that how can you say Popovich is overrated? Blaming him for the Spurs never winning back to back titles? You should be blaming Shaq for that.

      • antistratfordian - Apr 24, 2014 at 11:38 AM

        Who else do you blame for a championship team loaded with hall of famers failing to successfully defend their title 4 times? Ultimately the responsibility of that falls on either the head coach or the star player – but in San Antonio the stars have been castrated, so everything falls on Popovich.

        Shaq wasn’t even on the Lakers when the Spurs lost to them in the WCF in 2008, preventing yet another back-to-back bid.

      • bougin89 - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:57 PM

        I was referring to the 2000 through 2002 playoffs(although Duncan missed the 2000 playoffs). In 2008 Duncan was the only guy that could get a rebound against the Lakers. I don’t think that’s on Pops.

        Plus Kobe had little say in that series. He was unstoppable.

        Regardless, ultimately the players settle the outcome of games in the NBA. Much like in game 6 of the finals last year.

      • antistratfordian - Apr 24, 2014 at 1:59 PM

        Hard for your players to settle a game from the bench.

      • bougin89 - Apr 24, 2014 at 2:54 PM

        And with that I have to end this debate. You’re making me start to blame Tim Duncan for the Spurs losing and I don’t like it. He’s freakin’ incredible especially for being 38(well tomorrow he’ll be 38).

      • antistratfordian - Apr 23, 2014 at 5:41 PM

        Pardon, Game 6 & Game 7.

        Just… there are no words. I can still see Duncan’s and Parker’s faces as they’re sitting on the bench watching Pop screw them over.

    • calkinsrob - Apr 23, 2014 at 5:44 PM

      wow… just wow. What you need to see is that Pop’s best player and according to you, the only reason the spurs have won, is 37 YEARS OLD!!! Manu is 36! and the team still has the best record in the NBA.

      Its so impressive how this guy can have a system that still allows for these older players to play and be able to work in younger role players into the lineup.

      • antistratfordian - Apr 23, 2014 at 5:51 PM

        See, now you’re taking credit away from Tim Duncan again. How many players are that good at age 37? Karl Malone and Kareem. It’s rare. Give Duncan his due.

    • asimonetti88 - Apr 23, 2014 at 5:53 PM

      Poppovich took over partway through that one season and the best players on the roster were Sean Elliot and a 40 year old Dominique Wilkins. Both were solid players, but game changers they were not. Robinson played in like 2 games that year.

    • the1nonlyk - Apr 23, 2014 at 7:53 PM

      ha ha whatever hater

    • davidly - Apr 24, 2014 at 5:53 AM

      Way to fudge, troll. That seventeen games he one was as interim coach and just happened to be double the winning percentage of the guy he took over from. And if his success is all down to Duncan, why, then, does he have such a high winning percentage when he’s not on the floor?

  3. azarkhan - Apr 23, 2014 at 4:35 PM

    But we know what your problem is–you’re an idiot.

  4. newyorkball82 - Apr 23, 2014 at 5:05 PM

    So he almost choked in last years playoffs??? From what I seen they should have won that series in 6. I’d like to see another coach do what he’s done. Phil Jackson is the closest and he had MJ and Kobe…. I thought you were gonna say something about Spoelstra. I would have really enjoyed that. Also, let me remind you that Tony Parker was out most of the season last year.

  5. newyorkball82 - Apr 23, 2014 at 5:39 PM

    I think the reason they’ve probably been able to keep the same core is because of the trust the core players have in him as a coach. Age plays a factor into everything too. He’s adapted new players in and learned to use the veteran players on limited minutes. You don’t make the playoffs that many years in a row because of simply having the same core players.

  6. newyorkball82 - Apr 23, 2014 at 5:57 PM

    I’d like to hear a breakdown of how he was “out coached” in game six last year… The same game Lebron stepped out of bounds on the three he hit. Game 6 had nothing to do with anything the heat players did and the spurs players didn’t then… It was just bad coaching by pop and great coaching by spo?

  7. ravenswhat - Apr 23, 2014 at 6:09 PM

    Agreed. This guy is the best coach in NBA history IMO. Phil Jackson has always had multiple superstars on his title teams. Pop made role players look like stars and won in a small market.

    • jollyjoker2 - Apr 23, 2014 at 6:59 PM

      baloney. Phil Jackson would have beat Miami last year with his team. Pop coached horrible in the end of game 6. Just horrible. Your not gonna tell me when the lakers just had kobe and a few journeymen when they one their first championship with phil it was all luck.

  8. adoombray - Apr 23, 2014 at 6:22 PM

    He’s had one player handed to him the entire time. the 50+ wins year in and year out is so impressive in a league that everyone seems to think you have to lose constantly to be able to win in. Phil has his own talents in navigating teams that are already built – a really really difficult job that I do not take away from him at all for being the best at – but nobody has done more with in practically any level of the sport… or any sport, period. Pop is GOAT among hardcore purists like myself who don’t REALLY pull for any one team and just like good basketball.

    • jollyjoker2 - Apr 23, 2014 at 6:57 PM

      Duncan or the capt? He has done a good job now doubt – but he really messed the finals up last year the way he sat Duncan and played a smaller lineup and lost 3 rebounds in a row that could have put the game away…I don’t know. it takes a GM also to get players.

      • adoombray - Apr 24, 2014 at 12:45 PM

        He definitely lost the finals for them last year, because Duncan would have grabbed the rebound.

        I don’t really count David Robinson, that lockout stuff was really bad for all involved.

    • the1nonlyk - Apr 23, 2014 at 7:57 PM

      agreed no one can train players quite like pop and his management but he helped build that too i bet none of his coworkers can say one real mean thing about him

  9. williebeaman - Apr 23, 2014 at 6:26 PM

    While I have to say you have a small point about Game 6 last year (especially having Duncan on the bench for rebounding), the series of events – missed free throws, nearly airball 3, rebound, 3, missed free throw, nearly airball 3, rebound, 3, tie game – is something that was about as random as we will ever see. Hard to put it all on Popovich there, but Duncan should have been on the floor.

    As for your point about not winning championships in a row, I guess it was all Pop’s fault that Manu made the stupid foul on Dirk in Game 7 of 2006 to allow the Mavs to tie the game (Bruce Bowen contains Wade and Spurs beat the Heat that year if they played).

    Also, I guess it was Pop’s fault that Derek Fisher hit one of the most improbable shots in basketball history in 2004 (Spurs take care of business against the Pistons that year over the star-studded Lakers).

    So, they are two extremely improbable/unlucky plays from having rings in 99, 01, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07……

    The only year I can think of that Pop was outmatched was in 2010 when the Suns swept the Spurs. If you can remember they were still an inside-out team at that point in time. Pop saw the writing on the wall and new the NBA was moving towards more euro style slash-n-kick. He retooled the team on the fly and what have we seen from 2011-2014?

    Remember when everyone said the Spurs were boring? They were never boring, they just played a little more conservative style based on the style of play in the league at the time. Now, they are a model for the current style of play.

    • williebeaman - Apr 23, 2014 at 6:28 PM

      Typo – 99, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07

      • jollyjoker2 - Apr 23, 2014 at 7:01 PM

        exactly. He blew game 6…He couldn’t have f’ it up any further. He had Miami beat and out thought the situation. He didn’t need to put out a non rebounding lineup at the end of that game,…

    • bougin89 - Apr 24, 2014 at 10:05 AM

      Plus shouldn’t we be blaming Shaq for the Spurs not winning from 00-02? I mean Duncan missed the playoffs in 2000 but in 01 and 02 they just couldn’t handle Shaq(nobody could). If that’s not all on Popovich I don’t know what is(yes, this is extreme sarcasm if it wasn’t totally obvious).

    • macka4 - Jun 17, 2014 at 6:47 PM

      I and many Spurs fans will never forget that questionable (at best) call on Manu/Dirk. Dallas caught a break.

  10. newyorkball82 - Apr 23, 2014 at 7:58 PM

    So changing the line up made Leonard miss free throws, and also for non call against ginobli? Sounds like he was playing NBA 2K not coaching…

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