San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is an interesting guy. His resume reads like a fiction character where a young kid from Gary, Indiana graduates from the Air Force Academy with a degree in Soviet Studies, was trained as an intelligence officer, considered a career in the CIA and ends up playing and coaching basketball for a living.
On second thought, that's a bit too far-fetched for fiction.
Popovich's coaching roots are closely intertwined with Suns head coach Alvin Gentry. Both served time with Larry Brown at the University of Kansas in the mid-80's and Gentry has nothing but praise for his long-time friend calling him the one of the best coaches at managing the game, making in-game adjustments and dealing with his players.
Pops outside the game activities range from his dabbling in wine business to traveling in the Amazon rain forests (as told by Gentry). His wikipedia profile says this about his sometimes temperamental personality:
Popovich over the years has gained a reputation as a surly interviewee and a testy dealer with the media... In various in-game interviews, Popovich has been known for giving extremely short and sarcastic answers, as well as simplistic responses to reporters' questions.
I experienced that myself on Tuesday night before the Spurs played the Suns when I asked him an in-artfully worded question about his plans for covering Channing Frye at the three-point line.
"If I had a specific strategy that I think would stop him do you think I would tell you," he asked while looking deep into my eyes. "You think you are that special that I would tell you."
The answer was obviously - no. I am not that special. He did not tell me. And he didn't have a strategy for stopping Frye who went 3 of 4 from behind the line.
I didn't take it personally though. I've seen enough Popovich interviews to know what happens if you ask a dumb question and frankly I am surprised more coaches don't respond this way. He doesn't tolerate imperfection from his players and he expects nothing less from those questioning him about the game.
Of course, we also know about Pops famous sense of humor which was on display later in the discussion when I rebounded from my slap down to ask about Steve Nash's tweet from earlier in the day in which Nash said:
"Anyone know coach Popovich was an American spy in Russia before he began coaching? No wonder his teams are hard to beat!"
Brett Pollakoff from AOL Fanhouse was on-hand and documented the exchange:
"Does Steve tweet? I've lost all respect," Popovich joked. "Steve Nash should not be a tweeter. He's a competitor, not a tweeter."
As for Nash's assertion that the coach's time in the military helped him become a basketball mastermind, Popovich wholeheartedly agreed.
"He's absolutely correct," Popovich deadpanned. "I spent all my military time in Russian basketball courts in different cities collecting as many out of bounds plays as I possibly could. And now, I've had a chance to employ them."
Popovich then continued his anti-Twitter remarks, effectively saying that in his eyes, loose lips sink ships.
"If you're a tweeter, you talk too much. You want to keep things closer to the vest, so you can't tweet."
When it was pointed out that the Spurs have some tweeters in their locker room, Popovich's response was pretty much what you'd expect.
"I know," Popovich said. "I hate 'em all."
Popovich went on with his Luddite ways boosting that he was the only member of the Spurs staff not to own a laptop and then even took a jab at Brett's iPhone that he was using to record the conversation.
Oh, Gregg. Won't you join us in the 21st Century? There's room for your sharp wit and no-nonsense prickly style even in this technology infested digital world we live in.
Here's an edited version of the exchange with the full audio available here: