Gregg Popovich will begin his coaching stint as Team USA’s head coach starting in 2017, and this will eventually bring some good changes to San Antonio.
This summer, Popovich will continue serving as Team USA’s top assistant coach before eventually sliding into the head coach position, when Coach K retires from Olympic competition for good.
There could not have been a better coach chosen because Pop not only has the experience to boast being team USA’s head coach, but a hefty winning resume in the professional basketball ranks.
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Pop found himself in this position after asking Commissioner Adam Silver in an NBA coaches meeting about how it was possible that a college coach become a lifetime appointment for USA Basketball, and most of the coaches agreed. This was not only an important question, but one that changed everything.
While Popovich was not volunteering his own services, he raised an important question. At the time he had suggested Doc Rivers for an example of a coach he felt was deserving of an opportunity.
Jerry Coleangelo (Team USA Managing Director) saw eye to eye with Popovich after a sit down talk, and appointed him to be the coach without a lengthy process; actually there was no process at all, because Pop is already well qualified. Popovich has structured the San Antonio Spurs to utilize and win with the most international players in the NBA. In many cases, he’ll be coaching against some of his current and former players.
Apr 22, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich reacts to a call during the play against the Memphis Grizzlies in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at FedExForum. Spurs defeated Grizzlies 96-87. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
When players come home after working with the Olympic team, they usually find some type of renewed competitiveness, and hungrier approach to the game of basketball. They work harder, play more inspired, and the experience can be seen almost immediately. Popovich should bring back the same experiences when he takes the role as head coach.
This should affect the Spurs in about three ways.
Popovich will find a renewed energy and passion in his coaching, because his ultimate dream job has just found him. It takes a toll on anyone to consistently output a high level of NBA basketball the way the Spurs do, but not always get the expected result. This gives Popovich a fresh perspective, and the fresh outlet that he needs to rejuvenate.
If you can keep challenges in front of you, I think it’s a good thing,” Popovich said. “I’m not ready to plant tomatoes day in and day out or do anything like that. I think if you can look ahead at the challenges you have, you stay young. You stay excited. You stay vibrant. This is exciting, very exciting for me. I think it makes me sharper for the Spurs.
Can Popovich take on the challenge of running the Team USA Basketball program and run the Spurs’ head coaching job with the same efficiency? He seems to believe it’s more than possible. One of the pleasures in life many seek is to have a job that doesn’t feel like work, and in Pop’s case, he will have two.
It’s gotta be more than work, it’s gotta be enjoyable,. It’s gotta be something that you get a kick out of. All of those things are what we look for as human beings. It makes life worthwhile. It’s got nothing to do with being tired. There’s all kinds of time during the day to get things done.
This all but guarantees that Popovich won’t have second thoughts about leaving the NBA if/when Tim Duncan decides to permanently run his car shop instead of taking on the grind of another year in the NBA.
Popovich did promise LaMarcus Aldridge that he wouldn’t retire if Aldridge would sign with the Spurs, and this helps him make good on his promise. FIBA has changed a few qualification selection rules, which would require Popovich to miss some of the Spurs’ NBA season, but Commissioner Adam Silver will make sure he never has to worry about that. Popovich will be able to focus wholly on the Spurs without any distractions.
Starting with the 2016 Rio Olympics, Leonard will be on the roster once the final selections are made. We have seen Leonard improve rapidly this year. His shooting and defense were among the top players in the league. He earned All First Team honors, an All Star selection, and finished second in MVP voting. How this will help Leonard with the Spurs is sharpen his leadership skills. Not only will he be coached by the best coach in the world, but playing along with the best players in the world, literally.
He will be around some of the hardest workers in the game of basketball. He’ll develop an even hungrier mental approach to winning, and he will be inspired to become a better leader, of which he will bring all of that and more back to the Spurs. He wants to be the best, and the best way to do that is to learn from the best.
The Spurs have build a great legacy, and the players most important to that are headed towards the end of their journey. You can expect the future to be in good hands, as Pop starts his new adventure with a new star leading the way. As Coleangelo said so profoundly, timing is everything.