What is my relationship with Gregg Popovich?
Over the past couple of weeks Iâ€™ve noticed an interesting trend in the comments section here at 48 Minutes of Hell. A small but vocal minority has been increasingly critical of Gregg Popovich and has even called for the coach that helped bring this franchise four NBA titles to be fired.
Iâ€™ll admit, I find people who believe that to be deeply frustrating. Itâ€™s a laughable opinion, shortsighted at best. Nonetheless the few yet hypercritical who have been haunting 48 Minutes of Hell recently do pose an interesting question, however unintentionally, for your humble author: What is my relationship with Gregg Popovich?
To be clear, I am not interested in my personal relationship with the man. I know what he thinks of me: Nothing at all. I can assure you that every time I have had the pleasure of interviewing Popovich he has forgotten about my existence mere moments after we have gone our separate ways.
My question is more abstract. As a supporter of the team, as a journalist, and as a student of the game, what is my relationship with Gregg Popovich?
The answer to that question lies in a different question, one which strikes at the heart of why I have chosen to pursue the craft of journalism: Do I wish to know or do I think I know better?
Layton Ehmke, a close friend and a brilliant journalist, is fond of explaining his favorite aspect of our profession by saying, â€œI love asking cool people questions.â€ Ehmke, whose mannerisms are a cross between a Midwestern farmer and a Californian surfer, is endowed with an enviable characteristic both of those archetypes possess. He has the uncanny ability to capture insight with simple language. I mention the characteristic specifically because of how dramatically I lack it.
In this instance, he has touched upon a particular insight that far too few members of the media understand: It is better to listen than to be heard.
Punch drunk boxers and hedge fund managers. SWAT team members and major conference commissioners. Graffiti artists and urban farmers. In the brief time Iâ€™ve had the pleasure of calling myself a journalist, these are the kinds of people Iâ€™ve had the opportunity to speak with and, more importantly, listen to. Just think of whom Iâ€™ll have met by the time Iâ€™m done.
Itâ€™s important to remember that, like Gregg Popovich, it means little to any of these people that theyâ€™ve spoken with me. Why should it? They are actors; I am merely an observer. But the idea of speaking with them is what gets me out of bed in the morning. Itâ€™s my job to find very interesting people and ask them questions. All things considered, itâ€™s a pretty good job.
This brings me back to the difference between knowing and knowing better. Itâ€™s not my job to know better than Gregg Popovich. And thank God it isnâ€™t, because I donâ€™t. But it is my job to try to know him, to look at the decisions he makes as a coach and understand them as best I can. Sometimes I have what are commonly referred to as â€œcriticisms,â€ instances in which I donâ€™t understand what he is doing and can envision a strategy or tactic that I believe would have been more effective.
But rather than react with vitriol, I try my best to remain sober and inquisitive. Thatâ€™s the tone we strive for here at 48 Minutes of Hell and itâ€™s the attitude we hope our readers embody as well. Iâ€™m not saying you canâ€™t be critical of Gregg Popovich. All Iâ€™m saying is, if you are waiting to see a member of this staff react disdainfully towards a coach and a front office that has brought this franchise four titles, youâ€™re wasting your time.
I may have moments where I am confused or critical. But at those moments I donâ€™t have the audacity to believe I could do a better job. In fact, Iâ€™ll go so far as to say no one could do a better job– not Phil Jackson, not Jerry Sloan, not anyone –of coaching the San Antonio Spurs than Gregg Popovich. That does not mean he is infallible. What it means is that when I question his decisions, I do exactly that: I ask questions about his decisions in the hopes that I may discover answers. What I donâ€™t do is assume I know better.