Gregg Popovich’s actions have long proven he wants an adversarial relationship with the media. The media has an opposite desire. This causes public friction as each side strives for its goal.
The dance has been playing out for two decades in San Antonio. Popovich has led the Spurs to five NBA titles in that time. The success has not softened his steely resolve to make reporters look silly.
He was in prime form Thursday night after Oklahoma City eliminated his team.
The reporter’s response should have been, “No, Gregg. I am not coaching. I am doing my job, which is to ask you questions.”
Alas, that rebuttal didn’t happen as it seemingly never does. Popovich’s bully behavior is rarely challenged — perhaps because he’s demoralized the press into a point of eternal submission.
Popovich is free to conduct himself in any way he pleases. The rest of us are also within our rights to point out that he’s a jerk. Or, at the very least, acts like a jerk.
Oddly, this opinion is not the prevailing one when it comes to the cantankerous coach. Somehow, his shtick of being intentionally difficult and embarrassing others has ingratiated him with people. They either find it refreshing or charming or view it as some sort of righteous payback to Big Bad Media.
Let’s be fair. Answering dumb questions from agenda-driven scribes in vulnerable times is not an enviable activity. And, yes, some of the questions Popovich has been asked in his 20 years as a head coach have been poor. But his struggle is not unique. It’s the same one faced by most athletes and coaches in professional sports.
Popovich is paid handsomely to coach his team. That is just one aspect of his job. Fulfilling media requirements is also required. He does not conduct himself in a professional manner in that arena.
That’s not an opinion. It’s a fact.
Last night’s question about lineup strategy is about as fair a postgame query as they come. Some may find a 67-year-old’s reluctance to field it without personally insulting the reporter amusing. I don’t.
The NBA’s popularity means he gets a bigger paycheck. Popularity means there is interest. Being polite for a few minutes every day seems like a fair trade on the back end.
A major reason why is because I believe the pro-Popovich crowd doesn’t understand the role of the media. They are there, ostensibly, to get answers for the fans at home who don’t have access. When Popovich is dismissive and unresponsive to them, it’s not just a slap in the face to those is the interview room. In extension, it’s a slap in the face to Spurs fans and others at home who want some insight.
Credentialed media is an easy punching bag. There’s a growing sentiment that they aren’t needed. The truth of the matter is: information-gathering is a skill. Websites like this one daily stand on the shoulders of their work. They are typically underpaid and overworked.
How they became the villain is confusing. The same people who think the entity has grown obsolete eat up every interesting nugget it produces and discuss it ad nauseam around water coolers.
Both Popovich and his defenders are biting the hand that feeds them.
We should take a step back and question if a basketball game is worth demeaning others over. Popovich is not conducting brain surgery or participating in some noble endeavor. He’s coaching a for-profit team in a for-profit league.
I fully understand the reasons dealing with media is an annoyance to a coach like Popovich. I simply fail to understand why he gets a free pass for his behavior. There are ways to say nothing. See Bill Belichick. Getting personal and nasty is a different story.