San Antonio Spurs News

26 Times Gregg Popovich's Greatness Went Beyond Basketball

Gregg Popovich
Gregg Popovich / Gregory Shamus/GettyImages
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Gregg Popovich, Monty McCutchen / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

12. Coach Pop Trolls Shaq 5 Seconds Into the Season

One of the most endearing qualities of Coach Popovich is how often he jokes around. No matter if it's with his own team, the media, opposing coaches and players, or the officiating crew, his humorous side comes out on a daily basis in many ways.

On their opening night of the 2008-09 season, the Spurs hosted Shaquille O'Neal and the Phoenix Suns months after having knocked them out of the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs. Popovich had utilized the infamous "hack-a-Shaq" strategy well in that series, using intentional fouls to successfully limit the Suns' possessions.

While O'Neal didn't appreciate the strategy at the time, he couldn't help but crack a smile when Coach Popovich decided to do it again seconds into the season opener.

Having Michael Finley foul O'Neal just five seconds into the game, Pop gave Shaq two thumbs up as he looked over to the bench confused. Surprisingly, rules to limit this strategy weren't implemented until 2016.

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Gregg Popovich, Manu Ginobili / JEFF HAYNES/GettyImages

13. "My Hair Was Dark Brown Before Coaching Ginobili."

As the next two entries on this countdown will attest, Popovich had a love-hate relationship with some of his greatest players. They had a loving relationship, but he hated their on-court decisions sometimes.

It's natural for a coach to want to tear his hair out when he feels like his guys know better, but nevertheless, it still took a long time for Coach Pop to realize that Manu Ginobili was an animal he couldn't tame.

"[After the Olympics], I had to coach him here. Believe it or not, my hair was dark, dark brown," he said at Ginobili's jersey retirement. "By the second year coaching him, it was dead white. A long time ago, it was white."

Coach Popovich goes on to say he became a better coach by knowing to "zip it" now and then and just let Manu be Manu. Wise move, Pop.

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