Spurs Mailbag: Coach Pop Answers Your Questions (Dec. 2009)

Coach Pop answers your questions during this inaugural edition of Coach Pop's Mailbag.

Location: Turkey
Question: Hi Mr. Popovich. What do you think about Spurs' NBA title chance this season?

Gregg Popovich: I think we’re one of about six or seven teams that has an opportunity to win a championship. It’s a very difficult accomplishment and dependent on many, many factors. For us at the moment, we have to become a much more consistent basketball team and integrate a lot of new players into the system for us to be the last team standing.

Luis Montoto
Location: San Antonio, Texas
Question: Coach, what is it about the Spurs' system that takes new players so long to learn? It would seem to me that the learning curve for a pro would be fairly quick.

Pop: Well sometimes I think that’s overplayed. Players who are new to a system do pick it up a little more quickly than people think. It’s just that if you’re a team that has been at a championship level, it takes a lot longer for people to find their place, because that team is already successful and to understand where you fit in takes a little bit longer.

Matt Reedy
Location: San Antonio, TX
Question: What is your thought process when you see a player who is obviously struggling offensively? Do you leave him on the floor hoping he will work through the "slump" or do you replace him with another player who might be able to score more easily? Is there a threshold at which you make that decision?

Pop: That’s a subjective decision. You don’t want to destroy a player’s confidence by pulling them out when they’re missing shots or not playing well, but at the same time winning the basketball game is important also, so it’s always a thin line to walk, but that’s where relationships come in, where communication comes in, so a player always understands why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Thomas Mauro
Location: Edgewood, WA
Question: Hi was wondering if you plan on staying in the NBA after Tim Duncan retires? If so will you stay with the Spurs? Go Spurs Go!

Pop:(Laughs) I’ve always made a joke about the fact that Tim’s contract and my contract have always coincided as far as length, and it’s served as a real good joke. In all honesty I have no idea how long I want to keep doing it, but Timmy’s situation won’t be the factor that will make me retire or continue to coach.

Brad Phillips
Location: Austin, TX
Question: Hey Pop, You like wine. Maybe you can help me out on this one. I was not a huge white wine drinker until I discovered LaFond's 2005 Chardonnay (Santa Rita Hills)--the balance, depth and price ratio were in perfect balance. The problem is that I drank it all. All of it. Any suggestions on a comparative domestic replacement for under $20?

Pop: (Laughs) Well I don’t want to get myself in trouble by picking one winery over another, he’ll need to figure that out on his own, but I would tell him to go to a good wine purveyor and describe what qualities he liked about the wine he as drinking and they ought to be able to match it up pretty well for him.

Rachel Gray
Location: Arcadia, CA
Question: Hi Pop! Good to see you taking questions. I have the impression the team has changed more than usual this year, not just because of the number of new guys but because some of the new guys (McDyess, Jefferson) are pretty big impact players. Has it been any trickier than usual to figure out the best lineups and substitutions?

Pop: Well you're correct; 53% of the bodies are new and 60% of the starting lineup is new, but we have more players who are going to make a quick impact than usual, and that demands more time to see how they’re going to fit with Tony, Manu and Tim.

Sehaj B
Location: Old Bridge
Question: George Hill, as we all can see is progressing really well. Do you see him as a future all star in the NBA? I know he still has a lot to learn, but what do you think about the Parker/Hill backcourt?

Pop: Well I don’t know what accolades are in George Hill’s future, but I do know he’s a vastly improved player, he’s doing a great job for us, and we’ve already used him on the court quite a bit with Tony Parker, and I like the combination and it will continue.

Ryan Hernandez
Location: San Angelo, Texas
Question: What happened to the beard?!?!?

Pop: Well I just got tired of it. Trim it, cut it, look at it, trim it again, look at it, trim it again, I was too lazy to keep it.

Cory Bellamy
Location: Northwest San Antonio
Question: At what point did being a professional basketball coach become a real goal for you, and what sacrifices did you have to make to get there?

Pop: I never thought about it, I always wanted to do other things, both in civilian life and in the military. Like many of us in life, circumstances arise that lead us in a different direction, and when I became acquainted on a more personal level with Larry Brown and he asked me to come as an assistant and leave Division III collegiate basketball, that’s when it first hit me that it was a different career, that the NBA was a very different career than a collegiate career and I found that I liked it. So from that time on, being an NBA coach was something that I wanted to do.