The Roar
The Roar


My dream interview with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich

Gregg Popovich didn't have the answer to the Thunder's speed. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
11th April, 2016
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As the NBA regular season comes to a conclusion, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich took time out of his busy schedule to speak to The Roar.

Well, in my dreams anyway…

On the eve of the playoffs, and with the Spurs looking to win their sixth title, all eyes are on a predicted Western Conference Finals match-up between heavyweights Golden State and San Antonio, so it was as good a time as any to chat with arguably the NBA’s greatest all-time coach.

Ryan: Pop, thanks for your time. The Spurs media manager tells me I have a 20-question limit, so I just wanted to say how gracious I am that you said yes to this interview.
Popovich: That’s not a question.

Ryan: Fair point. I’ll get on with it. The Spurs have a 65-15 record thus far this season, and the chance to finish with the fourth best regular season record in NBA history. It’s a remarkable achievement; where does it rank in your career highlights?
Pop: It doesn’t.

Ryan: It doesn’t rank at all?
Pop: It doesn’t mean a thing. It says we played well in the regular season. That doesn’t mean anything.

Ryan: In any other season, your record would be a major story and attract all the headlines. Yet with the Golden State Warriors’ amazing season – if they win their last game, then they’ll hold the record for the best regular record ever – it has ensured that you guys have been relegated to the shadows. Does that bother you?
Pop: Are you serious?

Ryan: Yes, I’m serious. What do you mean?
Pop: What type of question is that? No. The answer is no.

Ryan: It doesn’t bother you.
Pop: I wouldn’t waste your questions by repeating them.


Ryan: OK. With the playoffs just around the corner, is there any team that scares you?
Pop: All of them.

Ryan: Any team in particular?
Pop: Is there any team in particular that scares us? Really? That’s a question? No, there isn’t.

Ryan: You just said all of them scare you.
Pop: That’s not a question.

Ryan: Let me rephrase the question.
Pop: It wasn’t a question.

Ryan: I mean the original question.
Pop: About where our record this season sits in my career highlights? I told you, it doesn’t.

Ryan: No, I mean the original question in this particular thread.
Pop: That’s not a question.

Ryan: As I said, I’ll re-phrase the question. Is there a team you would have preferred to play in the first round?
Pop: Yes.

Ryan: Well… can you tell us which team it is?
Pop: Who are you referring to when you say ‘us’? It’s just you and me here. Are there two of you or something?


Ryan: Can you please tell me who the team is that you would have preferred to play in the first round?
Pop: Yes, I can tell you who the team is that I would have preferred to play in the first round.

Ryan: (*sighing) OK, who is the team you would have preferred to play in the first round?
Pop: Philly.

Ryan: Pop, they’re not even in your conference.
Pop: That’s not a question.

Ryan: Pop, c’mon.
Pop: That’s not a question either.

Ryan: I’ll ask again: who would you have preferred to play in the first round?
Pop: The Lakers.

Ryan: Philly and the Lakers? That’s who you would have preferred to meet in the first round?
Pop: Yes. I like our chances against them.

Ryan: What about from the teams that will actually make the playoffs?
Pop: Golden State.

Ryan: You would have preferred to play Golden State in the first round of the playoffs?
Pop: Yes. You have to play them sometime. Why not straight up?


Ryan: OK, looking at your team this year, you have great balance, great depth, and great versatility. You’ve also been able to rest key players, and ensure they’re fresh for the post-season, while still securing the second seed in the West. Do you still see yourself using that depth in the playoffs, or will you shorten the rotation a touch?
Pop: No.

Ryan: No to what?
Pop: The question.

Ryan: But there were two parts to the question?
Pop: Then it was a bad question.

Ryan: Um… OK. Kawhi Leonard was the defensive player of the year last season, leading the league with a defensive rating of 96.4. This season he’s third, with a rating of 95.9, behind Miami’s Hassan Whiteside and your own Timmy Duncan.

Having two players finish in the top three is a testimony to the team’s overall brilliance on D, but even more impressive, the Spurs finished first in defensive rating as a team, a full two points ahead of the Atlanta Hawks. Clearly you’ve hung your hat on stopping people this season. Do you expect anything to change in the playoffs? Will teams be better prepared for your defensive schemes?
Pop: I hope not.

Ryan: Moving along then. The addition of LaMarcus Aldridge in the off-season was a coup for the franchise. He was the most sought-after free agent, and you were lucky enough to be the team that signed him. There’s been a few rough patches in integrating him into your system and the offense, and there have been times when he hasn’t got the touches he’s probably been used to over his career. How has he handled that?
Pop: He’s been great.

Ryan: So, it wasn’t hard?
Pop: I don’t really care if it’s been hard. Winning should be hard.

Ryan: Tim Duncan, in his 19th season, continues to be an impact player. How does he continue to be effective?
Pop: He’s one of the greatest players to ever lace up a boot. It would stand to reason that he would be an effective player then. Wouldn’t it make sense that he has an impact?


Ryan: But he is getting older.
Pop: Everybody is getting older. It’s kind of hard not to get older. Unless you’re dead.

Ryan: I just think it’s amazing that he continues to be a very good player in the NBA at 39 years of age. Don’t you?
Pop: No.

Ryan: The pace of the game usually slows down in the playoffs, and half-court play becomes more important. While your team has showed it can play at any speed, with LaMarcus and Timmy’s post play, Tony Parker’s use of screens, and Kawhi’s emergence with the ball in his hand – just to name a few – you’re extremely well equipped for the traditional, slower, post-season play. Yet many teams now try to play at a higher tempo.

Where do you think these playoffs will be played?
Pop: I would assume they’ll be played in the stadiums.

Ryan: I meant at what pace. Geez, never mind. Everyone is eagerly awaiting a match-up between the Warriors and Spurs. You’re one of the few teams that has beaten them this season, and with your height, you can make them pay when they go small. Given your battles this season, it’s a tantalising thought watching you guys go at it for seven games, and the chess match between you and Steve Kerr will be worth the price of admission alone. I’m sure you have a few tricks up your sleeve, and while I wouldn’t expect you to reveal them, are there things you have ready that you didn’t try in the regular season encounters so far?
Pop: Don’t know.

Ryan: Does the 1-3 season record you have against them this year concern you?
Pop: No.

Ryan: You have a reputation of being hard on reporters, but there are a number of people who say you’re actually a very funny guy behind closed doors.
Pop: That’s not a question.

Ryan: Pop, thank you very much for your time, I really appreciate it.
Pop: You asked way more than 20 questions.