Pop’s lesson: Learning to shut up

VIDEO: Popovich discusses Game 3 and looks toward Game 4

There have been so many great speeches delivered by leaders down through the years:

FDR’s pep talk during the Great Depression: “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

JFK’s inaugural address on the steps of the Capitol: “ask not what your country can do for you…”

John Belushi in Animal House: “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”

But even to those who know him only through those grumpy, often hilarious in-game TV interviews, after nearly 18 years on the job, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has learned that delivering messages and speechifying is often vastly overrated.

“I think I’ve learned to shut up more, and that probably is due to Manu Ginobili,” Popovich told reporters in Miami. “When he first came, I was going to make him a heck of a player. And after 20 minutes I realized that he didn’t need me to do that. He was already a heck of a player. Sometimes being quiet and letting the player play is much more important than trying to be Mr. Coach and teach him this or teach him that.

“So I think as time evolves and you get older in the business you figure out what’s really important, and you don’t waste time trying to make people what they’re not going to be.

“I didn’t make him a competitor, and there is no way I could make him a non-competitor, so you’ve just got to figure out who people are and what they can give you and take advantage of their positives.

“A lot of people talk about they’re going to draft this guy or that guy and in time he’s going to really be something. It’s usually with big guys. You look around and you say how many big guys, these 7-foot guys have really gotten better five years later?

“You look at Hakeem (Olajuwon), and Hakeem was Hakeem when Hakeem started to play in the league. He didn’t become Hakeem; he already was.

So you learn that you can’t make everything the way you think you might. You can’t make somebody great, so you don’t waste your time. You make a trade. You get rid of somebody. You make sure you’re bringing people in who fit in all the areas you want. Competitiveness and team play, that kind of thing. So I’ll just leave it at that. That’s all I can handle this early.”

Pop’s Law: Sometimes the best words are none at all.

VIDEO: Sounds of the Finals


  1. Shut up FranB says:

    You should also learn to shut up, Fran B

  2. Madame says:

    Pop is not stupid; he’s always got a trick up his sleeve. He’s not going to tell you his secrets. That’s why he coaches the unselfish players of the Spurs. He runs a tight ship.

  3. Max says:

    I have to agree with the “POP”, he & time have learned to accept the Player with his current abilities, or TRADE HIM. Cannot change anyone, they have to be in charge of their own abilities. Way to tell it like it is, POP!

  4. Kimmy says:

    I disagree a bit. I think a great player can be developed. Like Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb.

    • Moe says:

      Pop is lying through his front tooth. Why is Bonner still in SA? Why is Jeff Aryes brought in if he isn’t play and only gets garbage minutes. There is something that Pop doesn’t want to tell the media.

      • Isaac says:

        Pop is better than to lie. He may not say everything, but he won’t lie. He will tell it as it is. And of course, players can always be developed, Pop does give them a chance to prove themselves over a period of time, and if they continue to meet their requirement, they will likely stay in, but if they fail and show no signs of improvement, then they may likely be traded. The staff sees more in the player than what we fans see on the court, the staff knows their personal lives and everything that drives them as a competitor, so they take all those things into perspective. And so far, whatever it is, it’s working for the Spurs, regardless if they win the championship or not, the fact is that they continue to compete every year in the playoffs following these same methods.

      • ... says:

        Couldn’t agree more with you Isaac!

      • Mike says:

        Well said Isaac. I could probably have said it better myself, but I won’t bother.

    • DLLM says:

      Two bad examples…

    • Marco29 says:

      I don’t think he is lying but what he says depends on the players and the oppotunities you give them. Sure most of the great players are great fromt the beginning and don’t become great but there is a maturation process and they need to feel the condifence of their coaches and organization.
      You know Pop and how humble he is: remember when Parker arrived in SA and was given the starting spot in his 5th game in the league? Not every coach would have taken this decision and developed the realtionship he has with TP.
      I think Pop’s way is not to develop the skills of his players but to put them in the best position to maximise their potential and contribute to the team.

    • Mike says:

      Kimmy, there is only one problem with your statement. Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb aren’t great.