San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is the longest tenured coach in the NBA.
With strong leadership, Popovich, a five-time NBA champion has guided names like David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard.
While Kawhi Leonard decided to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers this summer, NBA Hall of Famer, Shaquille O’Neal suggests that Leonard may have found characteristics in Clippers consultant, Jerry West that he found in Gregg Popovich.
“Kawhi seems to be a guy who loves honesty,” Shaq told me.
“Gregg Popovich is very honest and very open. So Jerry and Pop are similar. He probably spoke Kawhi’s language. So I found out when everybody else found out. I thought he was going to the Lakers or the Knicks or possibly stay in Toronto but when I saw he was signing with the Clippers all I knew was, good move Jerry West.”
For those keeping score at home: Jerry West traded Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets on NBA Draft Day in 1996 in a deal that brought Kobe Bryant to LA LA land.
The NBA Hall of Famer, NBA Champion and 14-time NBA All Star has been the architect of many pivotal deals as general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers.
For those tardy to the party: In his front office role, West is quite responsible for creating the great 1980s Lakers dynasty, which brought five championship rings (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988) to the purple and gold.
He was also integral for the Lakers’ success in the 90s and 2000s also.
Almost a year ago, the San Antonio Spurs shipped Leonard to the Raptors for DeMar DeRozan.
A year later, Leonard has his second NBA Championship and second NBA Finals MVP on his second team.
He’s now a Clipper. But how?
“Jerry is very honest,” Shaq told me.
“Jerry probably said: ‘I’m working on a deal to get you Paul George. You’ve seen what the team did last year. You know what type of guy Doc is. This is your hometown. We would like to have you.’”
The Gregg Popovich comparison makes sense, by the way.
Case in point: I once asked Coach Pop who were his role models while growing up, Pop told me that he didn’t idolize celebrities because idols have feet of clay.
“At the top of my head, Thomas Jefferson was a great guy; he was a slave owner,” he told me.
“He has the ability to keep egos in check by running a fair system that any professional athlete can respect,” said Samaki Walker who played briefly with the Spurs.
“His willingness to confront his star players as he would his role players. It sends a balance message to all.”
Malik Rose won two championships with Popovich in 1999 and 2003 as a member of the Spurs and credits Pop for giving him a chance when no one else would after being a second-round pick in 1996 via Drexel University. “He’s not afraid to say what he believes and stand by it,” he told me.
“He genuinely cares about his players. It’s more than basketball.”
David Robinson Jr., son of retired Spurs center David Robinson grew up around the Spurs and saw the work that the Spurs coach put in.
“It’s how he manages his players,” he said.
“He knows how to clearly define player’s responsibilities and that put people in a position to succeed.”
“You know where you stand with Pop,” Speedy Claxton, a member of the Spurs’ 2003 championship team told me.
“He treats everyone equal.”