Head coach Gregg Popovich shared sentiments of his reaction to Manu Ginobili’s retirement on Media Day.
Even in retirement, the San Antonio Spurs family remains intact.
Tides are shifting in San Antonio. Head coach Gregg Popovich is the last remaining piece of the legendary Spurs quartet that’s responsible for the franchise’s sustained excellence over the last 20 years, but the bond he’s built with shooting guard Manu Ginobili lives on.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) September 24, 2018
Naturally, the retirement of Ginobili was a focal point of Popovich’s press conference on the Spurs Media Day on Monday.
“When you’re dependent upon someone for a lot of different reasons, not just his play on the court, but just his combination of understanding people and being as curious as he was about everybody on the team and everything in the world, whether it’s politics, religion, it didn’t matter. He was like a partner in that respect. We’d be talking on buses and airplanes. So you know that’s going to be gone. Once I realized he wasn’t going to play anymore, we’ve been talking with him about hanging around and being at practices every now and then like Timmy. We actually took him on our coaches retreat this past week. He spent time with us, trying to develop strategies for the season. So we want to keep him around as much as we can, just like Timmy. And Matt Bonner. But we don’t listen to Matt. We just tell him to do his jokes.”
It’s evident that the relationship between Ginobili and Popovich far exceeds that of a coach and a player and emulates that of close friends or even family members.
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Over the course of their 16 years together, Ginobili forced Popovich to extend far outside of his comfort zone by acting on his own and often making decisions on the court that defied Popovich’s strategy.
If not for Ginobili’s perceived recklessness, Popovich wouldn’t be able to quite understand players the way he does today. In many ways, the experience of coaching Ginobili will help ease the transition into a new generation of Spurs for Popovich.
Great coaches must be flexible and adjust their game plans based on the team’s personnel. Ginobili was the first player to truly force Popovich to readjust his thinking which pushed him further as a leader.
Not all players are suited for all roles and some players excel in certain areas, so working around a team’s strengths is potentially the most important aspect of coaching. With a crock of new additions, headlined by All Star DeMar DeRozan, Popovich will venture into unmarked territory in the 2018-19 season.
All the while, the influence of the Argentinian sensation will remind Popovich of the journey he’s taken as the figurehead of this franchise and propel him to his next phase of coaching.