Gregg Popovich’s mid-game mic grab just another tired act

by NEW YORK DIGITAL NEWS


I got a good taste of the ornery, obnoxious Gregg Popovich in 2019, about a year before his impressive consecutive playoff streak was snapped, when I asked him about a defense that gave up 130 points to a terrible Knicks team. 

Popovich, less than a month removed from his 70th birthday, slapped himself. 

Really. 

“Didn’t I just say it was pathetic? What would you like me to do? Slit my throat,” Popovich said as he planted a right hand on both cheeks. 

OK, I responded, then what was specifically pathetic about the defense? 

“No, I’m not going to give you a coaching clinic.” 

Got it. Popovich doesn’t have time for no-nothing peons such as myself, or the sideline reporters tasked with gleaning information between quarters. He’s done about as much for that profession as Charissa Thompson. He’d prefer to slap himself than answer reasonable queries. 

Which brings us to the subject of “class.” Popovich, ignoring multi-layered hypocrisy, brought it up Wednesday night in San Antonio, where he decided, audaciously, to grab a microphone and tell his home crowd to stop booing Kawhi Leonard

“Have a little class. That’s not who we are. Knock off the booing,” Popovich said before walking away and waving his hands in the air, becoming almost a satirical version of an old man yelling about the integrity of his lawn. 


Kawhi Leonard #2 of the LA Clippers talks to Head Coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs after the game on November 22
Kawhi Leonard of the LA Clippers talks to Head Coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs after the game on November 22.

The action, on its own, was silly and falls in line with Popovich’s holier-than-thou attitude. He’s insulated in his small-market bubble and believed that scolding fans about their (rightful) feelings was a good idea and would change minds because he’s friggin’ Gregg Popovich. Keep in mind that he wasn’t protecting a player on his own team, but rather an opponent who once sat out extended time for the Spurs and demanded a trade. 

For decades these fans were sold that the Spurs culture, fostered by Popovich, is the best culture. So why wouldn’t they blame a player for bolting? 

If Papa Bear Popovich were so concerned about San Antonio’s sentiment toward Leonard, he would’ve taken accountability for the circumstances surrounding the All-Star’s desire to leave. Or, maybe, he would have provided fans a proper explanation for that quadriceps injury that was either milked by Leonard or mishandled by the Spurs, depending on which side of the anonymously sourced stories are correct. Or, maybe, Popovich would’ve given fans insight into that 2019 meeting in Los Angeles between coach and star that apparently failed and couldn’t change Leonard’s trade demand. 

Instead, we got nothing substantial from Popovich during or after the rift. To this day, there isn’t a clear understanding of why the forward desperately wanted to abandon the franchise that drafted him. But the fans who once loved Leonard — whose money helped make Popovich the highest-paid NBA coach in history — should stop booing because he said so. 

To Popovich’s credit, he has stated in previous interviews that the booing of Leonard made him uncomfortable. And I would’ve ignored Wednesday’s microphone grab if it weren’t for Popovich’s insulting explanation after his scolding didn’t work. 


Gregg Popovich head coach of the San Antonio Spurs tries to quiet down the booing at the official in a game against the Los Angeles Clippers i
Gregg Popovich head coach of the San Antonio Spurs tries to quiet down the booing at the official in a game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Getty Images

“You don’t poke the bear,” he claimed in the postgame presser, after the fans ignored his words and kept booing. 

Excuse me? 

“Anybody that knows anything about sports knows you don’t poke the bear.” 

Riiiiiiight. 

So according to him, Popovich, who has for many years witnessed booing rain down on Leonard in San Antonio, decided Wednesday to grab the arena microphone and chastise his fanbase to mask a genius coaching tactic. How wonderfully self-serving after a bold move doesn’t go according to plan. 

We’re not buying it. Popovich looked bad, and he decided not to own it. His “I’m smarter than everybody in the world” act worked for a long time because he had Tim Duncan and won a lot. In the past four playoff-less years, however, Popovich’s greatest coaching accomplishment was losing games for Victor Wembanyama. 

As of Friday, the Spurs had the worst record in the West, a 10-game losing streak, and a tired act from their coach.



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