April 11, 2011
In addition to being a great coach, Spurs head honcho Gregg Popovich is generally recognized as an old-school personality. Most modern-day coaches know how to play the media game, but Pop remains as gruff as possible. It's endearing, in its own way, and helps set him apart from the often too-slick world of NBA coaching.
Still, I don't think anyone thinks that Popovich is old-school enough to dislike an innovation as ingrained in the soul of today's NBA as the 3-point line. Except he does. From Jeff McDonald at Spurs Nation:
If the league rules committee would allow it, he would personally travel to every building from the Staples Center to Madison Square Garden and scrub the 3-point line off the court himself.
"I'm old-school, I wish there weren't any threes," Popovich said. "It would be more basketball-like to me."
Instead, each NBA gym comes equipped with an arc painted 23 feet, 9 inches from the basket at its apex, beckoning shooters to step right up and gamble for extra points.
This season, the 3-point shot has been uncommonly good to the Spurs, who have made 671 of them, shattering the franchise mark of 625 and sparking the most prolific offense of Popovich's 15 seasons.
It's tempting to say that Popovich is just trying to play some mind games by indirectly telling his team that it shouldn't pay so much attention to the 3-point line, but the realities of the team's offense suggest that Pop is all too willing to take advantage of the long-range shot. Instead, he's just an exceedingly direct man who has old-school preferences but also remains willing to do whatever it takes -- within the rules, naturally -- to win.
This is all to say that while Pop probably actually does hate the 3-pointer as an institution, he's a smart man who doesn't confuse his preferences with a single Right Way to win games. Despite creating a moderately rigid system for the Spurs in Tim Duncan's(notes) prime, Popovich has proven that he's willing to change his plan when the team's circumstances require new strategies and tactics. He's interested in what's useful, not what's best according to some personal moral code of the sport.
So, yes, we should rightfully note that Popovich is an old-school guy. But his approach to being a coach in a constantly changing league is decidedly forward-thinking.