[A toast to the New Orleans Hornets, my dark horse team for the 2008 playoffs]
Sounds about right. Popovich and Tim Duncan are a perfect mesh: content to avoid the spotlight, but yet they have more victories than anyone else.
NEW ORLEANS – Gregg Popovich walked out of the victorious locker room late Monday and into the King of Scotland. His San Antonio Spurs had just punched their ticket to Hollywood, and there was Popovich standing in a tunnel in New Orleans Arena embracing indie film star Forest Whitaker. In addition to collecting fine wine, Popovich counts art-house movies among his interests. He wasn’t going to pass on a chance to meet an Academy Award winner.
“You’re the best,” Popovich gushed as Whitaker stuck out his hand.
Whitaker thanked him. As Popovich turned to leave, one of Whitaker’s acquaintances called out to the Spurs coach.
“I love your work.”
For more than a decade now, Popovich has been content to leave the big-ticket roles to others. Among coaches, he is the critically acclaimed indie actor. He doesn’t do how-to books, commercials or $3,000 suits, yet everyone within his industry knows he ranks as one of the best.
Under Popovich, the Spurs have operated as one of the NBA’s model franchises for more than a decade now, but that counts for only so much with Stern. Larry Brown has told friends that Popovich didn’t get the Olympic coaching job because Stern didn’t like him, and while that’s a stretch this much is true: Few teams rankle the commissioner the way these Spurs do, and it’s not just because they kill TV ratings.
Popovich has long valued his team over his standing in the league. If Tim Duncan doesn’t like the dress code, then Popovich has a problem with it. If the NBA’s czar of discipline, Stu Jackson, warns Bruce Bowen about his feet without first notifying Spurs officials, then Popovich will criticize the league. If the Spurs have too short of a turnaround between playoff series then Popovich won’t hesitate to blow off the mandated media session and eat the fine so his players don’t have to come to the gym on their day off.[From Popovich has had starring role in Spurs' success - NBA - Yahoo! Sports]
I'd like to see a Kevin Garnett vs. Tim Duncan matchup in the Finals, personally. Who cares what the media wants (I'm guessing a Lakers vs. Celtics series would draw the highest ratings, and David Stern would allow himself an extra smirk), those are two of my favorite players. Plus Doc Rivers vs. Gregg Popovich would be amusing, well, perhaps not for Bill Simmons. [bonus: Kevin Garnett vs. Tim Duncan in high-pressure games]