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Gregg Popovich nearly made Doris Burke cry with “turnovers … turnovers” interview

May 30, 2014, 11:44 AM EST

Remember that interview during last year’s Western Conference Finals?

Doris Burke asked Gregg Popovich two questions, one about the Spurs’ offense and one about their defense. To both, he replied “turnovers.”

Burke, speaking on Zach Lowe’s podcast, opened up about that experience (about 27 minutes in):

I adore Pop, and I think anyone who knows me knows I’ve said this over and over again: He is my absolute favorite coach in the league. And it has as much to do with his history as someone who went to a service academy and was serving his country and doing a lot of really cool things that he will not speak about and the type of man you come to know because you hear the stories and you’re around P.J. Carlesimo and Mike Breen and people who’ve known him over the years. So, I have enormous respect for the guy.

But, yes, there is that little corner of my mind that is terrified of being made a fool of on national television.

I know he doesn’t mean it personally. I know. Mike Breen has said to me, “Would you mind if one time on the air I said how much Pop likes and respects you, Doris? Because after those interviews, I know people would not know that.” I said, “Mike, you do whatever your instincts tell you.”

But, yeah, Zach, it’s not fun. Everybody laughed at that, last year – and I don’t know if you remember the moment – but I had asked him something about the offensive end, and he said “turnovers,” one word. Then I asked him about, “OK, on the defensive end, you held them to whatever percentage. What did you see that you liked on that end?” And he said “turnovers” again.

Two words. I was devastated. It was brutal. It was absolutely brutal. I was almost in tears. I go back to where I sit, and I’m trying to compose myself, because I thought I asked two pretty good questions. And those were those were the responses I got.

Almost in tears. Literally blinking back tears.

Were Burke’s two questions a little vague? Sure, though it’s difficult to get too specific with a national-television audience during an in-game interview. But as Kevin Arnovitz points out here, Popovich is often more demeaning to those who ask in-depth basketball questions.

Yes, it’s easy to laugh at Popovich’s bullying of reporters. I often laugh, too. It can be funny.

I’m convinced he is usually performing, doing a caricature of himself. Most media get that. As was the case night, the reporter laughed along with Popovich, and that made it easier for all of us to laugh too.

But purposefully or not, Popovich is being intentionally rude in public to people he doesn’t know well enough to know how they’ll take it.

Would his behavior have changed if he’d known the effect it had on Burke? I sure hope so, and I actually think so.

Popovich is not a bad guy. It’s time for him to stop acting like one.

  1. mazblast - Jun 19, 2014 at 11:46 PM

    “Coach, the game is tied at the half. What does your team need to do to win the game?”
    “Score more than the other guys.”
    “How do you propose to do that?”
    “By putting the ball in the basket and stopping them from doing it.”
    “Do you anticipate making lineup changes?”
    “Yes. Perhaps not in this game, but yes.”
    “Are you concerned that your team is getting outrebounded?”
    “No. I’m proud of my players for it.”
    “Do you have problems with all the turnovers?”
    “No. I love them, especially the apple and cherry ones.”
    “Will you go to a zone defense in the second half?”
    “Sure. I like to reveal all of my strategy on national TV, so my opponents know what’s coming.”

    I think that Pop grew up with Mad Magazine’s “Snappy Answers To Stupid Questions”, as I did, and uses that technique well with the stupidity he’s force to endure by league and network rules. If these sideline reporters, with their combined IQ of 42, want to get better answers, they should try asking better questions; and if they can’t do that, they should quit their jobs. Better yet, the league should do away with these stupid interviews.

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