Gregg Popovich talks Mills, Leonard, music, vacation destinations and more in Q&A


May 20, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich reacts during game four of the Western Conference semifinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE

Gregg Popovich is a fascinating head coach. Since I’m biased, I would venture that he is the most fascinating coach in the NBA and possibly all of professional sports.

So when a mailbag featuring Popovich comes out, it is sure to receive my undivided attention.

In his Q&A (with questions submitted by fans), Popovich covered a wide variety of topics like what he expects from Patty Mills and Kawhi Leonard, how he will prepare for a tougher league landscape and whether the Spurs place as much attention to the defensive side of the ball as they did in the midst of the Tim Duncan era.

Oh, and Popovich also talked about non basketball things too. Apparently he can’t finish Ulysses because he’s not man enough, he likes country now and he tried listening to Stephen Jackson’s rap album before finally realizing the lyrics. (Isn’t Pop listening to rap just a priceless image?) That and much, much more can be found in his mailbag which is highly recommended if you are a Spurs fan or just enjoy the typical snark of Coach Pop.

On Mills’ role:

“Well, I didn’t need to see his Olympic performance to know what he can bring, it’s just that he came to us so late last year it was really hard to incorporate him into what we were doing. But he’s an aggressive, fiery, offensive player. He can shoot the three and really score, and that’s what he looks to do when he comes in the game. So he’ll be a game-changer in that sense, at the offensive end. And defensively he’s kind of like a pest—he’s not very big but he’s really a game. He’s got great courage and he gets into people, trying to really bother them and get them off their game. So his competitiveness and offensive skills are what we’re looking forward to mostly.”

On the importance of defense:

“You know it’s always a priority with us, but you know we’re never going to reach the level that we were at five, six years ago defensively. It’s just impossible to do that for a variety of reasons. But it still has to be an emphasis, we can get better and we have to if we want to compete with these guys that, as you said, added so many players to their team.”

On Leonard’s future progression:

“I think he’s going to be a star. And as time goes on, he’ll be the face of the Spurs I think. At both ends of the court, he is really a special player. And what makes me be so confident about him is that he wants it so badly. He wants to be a good player, I mean a great player. He comes early, he stays late, and he’s coachable, he’s just like a sponge. When you consider he’s only had one year of college and no training camp yet, you can see that he’s going to be something else.”

How he will respond to the new NBA hierarchy:

“What other teams do is not in our control, so we’ll worry about, as I said, incorporating Kawhi into the program more since he wasn’t here very long. Boris, Patty Mills, look for improvement in Danny Green, work our big guys. Tiago and DeJuan Blair I think are going to have very good seasons for us. So we’ll concentrate on that and what we need to do as a group, and we’ll see how we stack up.”