NBA FINALS

Coach Pop's San Antonio Spurs are rested, but rusty as well?

2013-06-05T17:15:00Z 2013-07-08T22:30:28Z Coach Pop's San Antonio Spurs are rested, but rusty as well?Al Hamnik al.hamnik@nwi.com (219) 933-4154 nwitimes.com
June 05, 2013 5:15 pm  • 

Gregg Popovich scares media. Watch him be interviewed. The lengthy pause between questions. Eyes darting from one reporter to another, as if daring his interrogators.

Forget warm and fuzzy. He's intimidating as hell to those who don't know him.

The game's the thing for the San Antonio Spurs' coach and 1966 Merrillville grad, seeking his fifth championship as the NBA Finals open tonight in Miami.

It's not that he's rude and abrasive. Popovich's preparation time is as important as his next breath. An excruciatingly modest coach who shuns the spotlight, it's all about the team as he learned while attending the Air Force Academy.

These NBA Finals promise to be good TV, with Popovich working the sidelines.

Q: You gave Heat President Pat Riley a lot of credit for bringing together his 'Big Three' of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade three years ago — and actually phoned him to say so.

A: Yes, I did that. Pat Riley put together a team that's a monster. I congratulated him for that, but the last thing I'm going to do is thank him.

Q: Your bench is deep, talented and no one seems concerned with their minutes each night.

A: The development of the role players is huge because a lot of times, it's these guys who get you through a ballgame.

Q: Scary thought. Your 'Big 3' of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili is performing better than ever in this postseason run.

A: Those three guys have a lot of character and make it easy for whoever we bring in to adjust. One never knows who you're able to add. It starts with having a core, which we've been fortunate to have.

Q: The Miami Heat are the No. 1 seed overall, but many believe your Spurs are playing the best basketball now.

A: I don't believe we 'won' the Memphis series, 4-0. We didn't kick anyone's butt. A couple of plays here and there could've changed the whole dang thing.

Q: Describe the 'system' you've successfully implemented.

A: We're not a one-on-one team. We can't give the ball to one guy and say 'Go get it.' We've got to do it as a group at both ends of the floor.

Q: The Spurs are a small market franchise that has long been considered fundamentally minded and flat-out boring because they stress team work.

A: We're a team that had been written off, that had their day. I probably would think that, too, as a fan looking at it from the outside. You don't expect something like this to happen this late with those three guys, but it shows their character.

Q: In this, your 17th season, you're 905-423 overall and 130-79 in the playoffs. You're Hall of Fame worthy and everyone seems in complete agreement but you.

A: At the beginning of my coaching career, I didn't know if I'd win 10 games before I even got to the NBA. I've been hanging on Tim Duncan's coattails a long time. My job is to not screw this thing up.

Q: You're an Indiana Harbor guy who dreamed of playing for Hall of Fame coach John Baratto at East Chicago Washington and still call yourself a 'region rat.'

A: Like I told you once before, once the game starts, I just feel like I'm at the Griffith courts or 39th and Broadway and if we don't win, I'm not gonna get back on the court for three hours. When the game's over, win or lose, I'm fine. But while it's on, I guess I'm a little bit of a maniac.

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