The San Antonio Spurs, the model for stability and sustained success in the modern NBA, were still a shaken team when they showed up for training camp in October, less than four months after a devastating loss to Miami in the NBA Finals.
Some coaches would try to brush off the disappointment of letting a title slip through their fingers and refuse to acknowledge the elephant in the room.
Gregg Popovich took it head on, embraced the heartache, and in a career full of masterful coaching performances, delivered perhaps his finest effort in season No. 18.
“The way we lost in the finals wasn’t an ordinary loss, it was pretty devastating,” Popovich said on Tuesday after being named NBA coach of the year. “We decided that we needed to just face that right off the bat at the beginning of the season and get it out of the way. Don’t blame it on the basketball gods or bad fortune or anything like that, the Miami Heat beat us and won the championship and that’s that.”
Popovich joined Don Nelson and Pat Riley as the only coaches in league history to take home the Red Auerbach trophy three times in their career.
The Spurs lead the Dallas Mavericks 1-0 in their best-of-seven series, with Game 2 on tonight in San Antonio.
“He’s a gentleman,” Spurs swingman Marco Belinelli said. “Everybody knows that he’s the best coach in the league. So to say that is not really important. But maybe some people, they don’t know he’s really a great guy, a great gentleman. He really helps guys, helps each other. He wants to help everybody. Great person.”