The Spurs-under Gregg Popovich-are the NBA’s greatest magic trick: fans wanna know how they do it. How do they pull it off? There’s nothing I can say about Gregg Popovich that hasn’t been said: every superlative is accurate and more importantly he’s going to walk away with at least 5 rings. Well done, good sir.
To understand how the magic is performed FIBA released a video of Pop speaking at a coaching seminar and boy does he drop knowledge. In the first minute he refutes the notion of magic: “it’s about organization, it’s about discipline, it’s about building the blocks; about relationships with your players.” That’s…it?
In an ESPN interview Pop identified just who they want to bring into the Spurs organization:
“For us, it’s easy. We’re looking for character, but what the hell does that mean? We’re looking for people — and I’ve said it many times — that have gotten over themselves. And you can tell that pretty quick. You can talk to somebody for four or five minutes, and you can tell if it’s about them or if they understand that they’re just a piece of the puzzle. So we look for that.
A sense of humor is a huge thing with us. You’ve got to be able to laugh. You’ve got to be able to take a dig, give a dig, that sort of thing, and feel comfortable in your own skin that you don’t have all the answers. People who are participatory. The guys in the film room can tell me what they think of how we played last night if they want to. Sean Marks would sit in on our coaches meetings when we’re arguing about how to play the pick-and-roll or who we’re going to play or who we’re going to sit.
We need people who can handle information and not take it personally because in most of these organizations, there’s a big divide. All of the sudden, the wall goes up between management and coaching, and everybody is ready to blame back and forth. And that’s the rule, rather than the exception. It just happens, but that’s about people. It’s about finding people who have all those kinds of qualities, so we do our best to look for that, and when somebody comes, they figure it out pretty quick.”
The first 5 minutes is about character and talent…recognizing “the fiber of your team.” It’s entirely applicable if you’re gonna build a business or if you’re a leader. Pop transcends the ordinary metrics and he’s right: it’s easy to get a player who can rebound or score 20 points a night. It’s like getting likes and retweets those are hollow metrics that don’t accurately reflect character or the true value of your contribution (technically they shouldn’t dictate worth either but that ain’t how most people are wired).
And yeah it’s one thing to see or think differently…that’s what you are supposed to do…but you need to have the fortitude to execute your vision. Pop brings up that keyword at the 12:50 mark. Jordan and Kobe same way: fortitude. It’s a fantastic word yet it’s sadly lacking in our businesses and our arts…you can see this on social media all the time: people talk big but do little. There’s an outstanding Mark Twain observation: “Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” Yes!
Twain’s quote gets into the hall of fame along with Einstein’s classic: “great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds” which is a delicious summary of social media today.
Pop expands on these themes around 16:56 and listen for a few minutes as he breaks down winning: “act like you do it all the time.” Not only is this tied to character but I’ve never seen an organization built this way. Even though he’s talking to other coaches this isn’t Xs and Os; it’s almost like Pop believes you can figure out how to work that stuff out on your own: in a way that’s easy. If you’re down by 10 what do you have to do? Get defensive stops and make baskets. That’s easy to type difficult to execute. It’s understandable how almost 20 minutes in Pop is still on character and on fortitude: that’s the true challenge.
At 19:55 he talks about measuring that character and that fortitude (still on that!).
Listen to Pop’s phenomenal timeout strategy starting at 23:14: clearly this is a dude who has taken apart all the aspects of the game and rebuilt them to suit his needs. Pop has thought this through. 29 minutes on he recognizes the Big Picture and how to get there…with drills like you do for children. I’m with him on that.
However 28 minutes in Pop talks about winning but it goes sideways for me: “it’s a journey.” I can’t stand it’s the process not the product thinking. Yes I know you don’t get up and write a book in a day or make a movie in a day. Fine. But all fans and people are left with is…the product. The product is what I’ve given people to judge…anything else: my process, my ethnicity, who I am…s’not up for debate or discussion.
At 31:15 Pop admits “pride in work on a daily basis is what grows the spirit and grows the character.” That I can agree with. I’ve accepted challenges because I’m not sure if I could succeed but I understood come fun or failure it would make me better.
Like this video…I’m in awe not that Pop was able to execute his vision but that an organization is willing to be built and run this way. There are 30 NBA teams but only 1 Spurs.