Gregg Popovich has been the head coach of the San Antonio Spurs for 26 years and it's not just for no reason. He has coached them to five NBA championships and this past season, he passed Don Nelson for the most regular season wins as a head coach in NBA history.
Popovich is looked at by many NBA coaches as the blueprint of what being a great coach entails. His style of coaching includes good old-fashioned team basketball, giving up a good shot for a great shot, and allowing everyone to get a touch. Just playing self-less basketball.
Every basketball team should practice team ball, but sometimes that is not the case. There is always a star on the team that feels they should always have the ball in their hands, and when a player has this mindset, their team is bound to lose.
Popovich also believes in building a strong relationship with your players. These are some of his keys to success. His regime has been copied by current NBA coaches and it is on full display in this year's playoffs.
Ime Udoka's coaching style mimics Gregg Popovich's
In the first half of Game 2 of the Boston Celtics versus Milwaukee Bucks series, I witnessed some of the best basketball take place. The Celtics were off to a hot start. They were 11 for 17 on threes and closed out the first half with a 25-point lead. Everyone on the floor touched the ball before most shots were made. It was truly a beautiful sight.
Credit for this display of teamwork goes to the players, but head coach Ime Udoka can also reap some praise for the Celtics' first-half performance. In Udoka's first year as head coach, his team finished the season at the number two seed.
Thanks to his guidance and emphasis on team ball, the Celtics were able to turn their season around after the all-star break. Udoka's coaching style relies heavily on defense, passing the ball, and building a strong relationship with his players. Three things Popovich has based his career on.
Udoka was once a player and assistant coach for Popovich. During his time with the Spurs, he picked up some knowledge from Popovich, and it shows. In an interview with Andscape's Marc J. Spears, Udoka spoke about what he learned while being Popovich's assistant.
“Think about the relationships. That’s the first piece. That’s what I base a lot of my stuff on. It’s a little different when it’s Tim [Duncan], Tony [Parker], Manu [Ginobili], guys who’ve been there 15, 20 years and you have to go in with new teams. The relationship piece, first of all. ‘Less is more' is a big thing for him."
Udoka also stated that Popovich emphasized holding players accountable. "It’s not about the Xs and Os. It shifted over the last 10 or so years, but that’s important to be well-rounded. He was the best I’ve been around with being a disciplinarian, keeping guys accountable, Xs and Os, relationships. He covered all the bases.”
In the beginning of the season, the Celtics were playing sloppy ball. They were criticized for playing isolation ball and not playing as a team. But when Marcus Smart called out his teammates and Udoka installed in his players that passing leads to offense, their season quickly turned around.
“It took some time,” Udoka said, “but I think they’re embracing being playmakers and helping everyone else score, and I think it’s pleasing to me and noticeable when we play that way.”