Forget the four championship rings (’99, ’03, ’05, ’07)…the two Coach of the Year awards (’03, ’12)…the two All-Star Game coaching gigs (’05, ’11). Thursday night in Miami may just have been Gregg Popovich’s crowning achievement.
I know the Spurs lost the game by five, but if you watched it live you couldn’t help but feel like history was being made. On one side you had the “super team”, a group clandestine to win a ring (and they did) after a historic offseason in 2010. On the other side, the San Antonio Spurs…..minus Duncan, Parker, Ginobili (and Danny Green)…oh wait, don’t forget Kawhi Leonard (quad) and Stephen Jackson (finger). Miami started their Hall of Fame trio of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, & Chris Bosh. The Spurs countered with…..Patty Mills, Tiago Splitter, and Boris Diaw.
Heat fans, don’t give me the whole “emotional letdown” excuse…that would explain a slow start by ‘The Heatles.’ No, San Antonio was in control almost all night. \ They even held a seven-point lead late till they succumbed to superior (and Fort Knox-sized) talent via a 12-2 Miami run. One glimpse at the boxscore (Lebron 23, Allen 20, Wade 19, Bosh 18) and it sure looks like the Heat players came to play.
I watched the entire game, intently, and didn’t see anything different from Pop on this night. He was supportive yet objective with the guys and showed major confidence in some of the youngsters like Nando De Colo and Cory Joseph (I’m sure you heard of them, right?).
This game didn’t feature a coaching clinic by Popovich or even a nice case study in X’s and O’s…..it was what the performance of those guys in black & silver exemplified. The game showed what execution and togetherness can do for a group of underdogs. I bet if you walked into any gym in the world one morning and picked any 5 guys, Gregg Popovich could probably have them looking like an All-Star team by lunch.
I used to think that Pop’s career would be defined more by what he does after Tim Duncan retires…like Phil Jackson after Chicago, Pat Riley after L.A.
But now, even if Pop rides off into the sunset with Timmy, the guy is untouchable in my book.
In professional sports, perception is reality…..and Pop bronzed both during a chilly Thursday night on South Beach.