Creating a culture of involvement in San Antonio


There’s a hallway in the AT&T Center outside of the team’s locker room, training room and the coaches’ offices. It’s where all the reporters hang out to interview Coach Pop before the game, and all the players come in from the parking garage.

In this hallway, one wall is lined with framed pictures. A few are team pictures from over the years, but most are action shots of each of the players. Jacob Riis’ famous quote about pounding the rock hangs near here, transcribed into different languages so that everyone — not just the native English speakers — can burn it onto their brains.

About a week or two ago, the pictures were changed out for newer ones. Interestingly enough, Alonzo Gee is in one of the photos. It’s an image of Gee going up for a dunk against Caja Laboral in the preseason. There is also one of Garrett Temple.

Gee could be traded or sent down to Austin today and no one would be surprised. The same could be said for Temple. And yet, the Spurs make it a priority to do the little things to make sure that every player feels a part of the team. I doubt there would’ve been anyone complaining of the pictures of Gee and Temple were just a couple more photos of members of the big three, but they aren’t.

Chris Quinn was signed by the Spurs on last Friday. On Saturday night, his locker had a complete nameplate on it. No one would have blamed the Spurs if there was just a piece of athletic tape with Quinn’s name on it as a placeholder until his nameplate was finished. But the team had it finished in time for the game.

The Spurs are a major league franchise, so I imagine they have the horses to accomplish these things with a fairly quick turnaround. If Alonzo Gee is traded today, I would expect to see his photo changed out by the next time I’m at the AT&T Center, waiting to interview Coach Pop.

I’m inexperienced enough not to know how things go for other teams, but I imagine that these are the goods that inspire people to regard as the Spurs as a first-class organization. The little things they do to make everybody feel like an important piece of the puzzle. Alonzo Gee isn’t alienated because he’s the 14th man on the roster.

He gets a picture in the hallway just like Tim Duncan.

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  • thomas

    another great example of spurs culture…the bit about james anderson. everyone supports each other off the court as well.

  • Ravi

    Great article and one of the main reasons why i love the Spurs!!!!

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  • San Antonio Spurs Fan

    Nice insight into the the championship culture of the Spurs. In a world where athletes reject the notion that they are role models and “the Decision” to reject your team and fans is a televised slap-in-the-face, it’s comforting to know that there are still athlete’s and organizations that respect the game, their role and their fans. Even better that so many of them are Spurs.

  • janglesjr

    Who spiked Elton Brand’s Kool-Aid and why is Richard Jefferson holding a bottle of cyanide?

  • junierizzle


    It’s no surprise why Parker wanted to stay.

  • Rey

    I think San Antonio Spurs Fan pretty much said it well: the NBA has pretty much about the individuality of a player and not about teamwork. It’s about who’s got the more endorsements rather than who’s really respected in and off the court.

    With the changes that happened in the off-season, it’s sort of become a pile up of “talents.” Nothing wrong with that, but it has become a culture of “me, myself and I” and about being “the Man” in the team – and then if things don’t go out that athlete’s way, he goes and join other selfish players and pretend it’s all about winning.

    But fact is, Life ain’t about winning. It’s about being true to the people who have loved you and taken you when you were a nobody.

    I also agree with junierizzle that it’s no surprise why Parker wanted to stay: after all, the team has treated him as a family and the way I see it, while the Big Three have not become “gods” in San Antonio, the place has pretty much given them the respect and love that they deserve while at the same time kept their feet firmly planted on the ground.

    I will go on loving the Spurs, even after Timmy and Manu have retired – and until they decide to throw off this kind of familial yet professional culture (which I doubt).

    And I think this is why the Spurs are the real champions – both in and outside the basketball court.

  • jeff

    @Rey I love your quote:

    “But fact is, Life ain’t about winning. It’s about being true to the people who have loved you and taken you when you were a nobody.”

    Completely awesome. Thank you.

  • Lenneezz

    I had no idea that SA did that with their action photos. But, it doesn’t surprise me one bit that they do.

    It’s another great day to be a Spurs fan.

  • gelobeans

    November 9th, 2010 at 5:39 pm
    @Rey I love your quote:

    “But fact is, Life ain’t about winning. It’s about being true to the people who have loved you and taken you when you were a nobody.”

    —-> totally agree with this one.. nice quote you said there…

  • Tyler

    @ Rey

    “…while the Big Three have not become “gods” in San Antonio…”

    I don’t know, I have a feeling an awful lot of Spurs fans would take a bullet for Manu. And if TD (or DRob for that matter) ran for mayor, he’d stand a good chance of winning…..

    But I agree with you. It’s refreshing to root for a team that seems to operate by the golden rule….

  • Mr. International

    Living in the DC area and seeing firsthand the yearly (weekly?) turmoil of the Wiz, it’s like night and day when I come to this site for my near-daily dose of The Spurs. They just know how to operate and get things done…and done the right way.
    And that is why I’m a fan!

  • Badger

    Awesome post!!!! All organizations across all indutries can take a lesson from this.

  • ITGuy

    Go Spurs Go!!

  • Gary

    This is why I’m from Montreal..east coast canada and still im a die hard spurs fan ! CMON BABY!

  • mtk

    nice piece.

    an excellent observation.

    Spurs released Temple today. Many of us will miss him. pretty good guard. hope he knows we liked his work.

    I hope these players get picked up quickly but, I assume they will because of exactly what you describe here – the professionalis of the organization that has trained them.

    After being with the Spurs, they go on to be valuable in so many ways to other teams.

    It has been an EPIC decade for this organization. I wish mainstream and other media respected us more, as a team and as a professional organization.

    I believe it’s a jealousy really that makes them haters. It’s great to wake up not hating and the Spurs make that easy for fans, players and administrators.

    thanks for a nice piece,
    keep up the good work


    p.s. oh, and you may want to include the Riis quote for those who don’t know bout the 101st blow.

  • Andrew A. McNeill

    Garrett Temple’s photo was removed from the hallway before today’s game against the 76ers. Let’s all pour one out.