Although he’s not directly involved, San Antonio Spurs coach and leader Gregg Popovich has a wide-reaching influence over this year’s NBA Finals.
In his 70 years, San Antonio Spurs patriarch Gregg Popovich has explored the depths of basketball and hyper-analyzed minute details of the game to craft new strategies, adapt to his players and develop winning strategies. As a result of his life’s work, Popovich has tutored a plethora of both coaches and players that span across a wide network of the NBA.
Even though his Spurs were bounced in seven games against Denver this season, Pop still pushed a second-seeded team to the brink of elimination with the odds stacked against him.
Now that his season is over and his time is freed up, Popovich will spend his Summer with family, traveling and exploring the finest dining that the world has to offer him. Along the way, he’s sure to take notice of this year’s NBA Finals that feature a handful of his pupils in latter stages of their respective careers.
Pop was recently spotted wining and dining with close personal friend and mentee, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr. Prior to what’s become a monumental coaching career in a short period of time in the Bay, Kerr spent four in San Antonio and won two championships under Popovich’s guidance.
Kerr’s time in the Alamo City has been noted as one of his most valuable assets in guiding a young Warriors team. He implemented levels of structure and trust in his players that Popovich found with his own Big Three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili in the early-2000s. Golden State’s play style is very similar to the Spurs’ 2014 ‘beautiful basketball’ that emphasized two-way effort an exquisite ball movement to open up perimeter jumpers.
On the flip side, the Spurs and Raptors organizations have been intertwined through media narrative and examination after the blockbuster trade that brought DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl to San Antonio in exchange for Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard.
Popovich is an extremely talented developer of talent and can be keyed in on as one of the greatest influences in NBA history. Both Leonard and Green began as raw players with a few intrinsic qualities and skills that could translate to the pros, but Popovich unlocked their potential and enabled them to become championship-caliber individuals.
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Green worked his way through the G League and overseas to reach his current stature and found a home in San Antonio along the way. His departure has resulted in some friction between the former fan favorite and the team, but there is still a lot of evident appreciation between Green and the Spurs.
Leonard, on the other hand, may be Popovich’s single greatest achievement as a developer of talent. He saw the potential and drive buried deep within Kawhi Leonard’s soul and found ways to help him harness it. As a result, Leonard helped bring a fifth championship to the franchise in 2014 and just took Game 1 of the 2019 Finals from the Warriors’ dynasty.
This isn’t meant to demean the work and talent that Leonard brings to the table – he is responsible for his own success, but Pop was a major influence in fulfilling Kawhi’s potential. Had he stayed in Indiana instead of being traded to the Spurs on draft night in 2011, Leonard’s career would be drastically altered.
Popovich now has the most wins of any coach between the regular and postseasons combined and brought five titles to this city. Not only is his greatness manifesting itself in the playoffs this year, but it’s going to be an intrinsic influence over the NBA for the remainder of time.