Spurs Mailbag: Coach Pop Answers Your Questions (March 2010)

Coach Pop answers your questions during this third edition (March 2010) of Coach Pop's Mailbag.

Location: Schertz
Question: Can you explain the process behind Michael Finley’s departure? Read that he asked to be released. What is the decision-making process behind honoring his request and letting him go compared to keeping him on the roster for the remainder of the season? Thanks and good luck the rest of the way.

Gregg Popovich: You are correct. Michael asked to be bought out and we thought it would be best to grant his request because that is what he wanted to do. I don't think it is ever good to have someone in your program who no longer wants to be there. I think he deserved to have another shot at playing more, that's what he wanted, since he had been such a class act for so long for us. On and off the court he was a great example for our organization.

Location: Alamo Heights
Question: George Karl recently said that a good coach is as valuable as a fourth or fifth starter. Do you agree?

GP: Hopefully as a coach, one can create an environment where it helps the team perform at its best. Beyond that, players win games.

V. Garcia
Location: San Antonio
Question: Championship Spurs teams always seemed to get stops when they were most needed. What are the biggest factors that have hurt the team in this regard?

GP: Well, the question just hit that right on the head. The thing we haven't done as well as in the past is make stops on demand. Our shooting has to become more consistent before we get to the playoffs if we're going to be successful.

Location: Helotes
Question: How much do you consider advanced stats such as plus/minus? Do you ever use certain combinations simply because the numbers indicate that they should succeed?

GP: The plus/minus stats certainly indicate trends, but I depend a lot more on the situation at hand and what I think it requires.

Location: San Francisco
Question: I think that Manu Ginobili has been passing the ball better than ever. Do you agree? As he ages, could we see him playing more of a playmaking role rather than a scoring role?

GP: Manu is a playmaker at his two position. We use him a lot so he can use his skills to score and to set other people up to score, so he already is in a playmaking position even though he is not the one guard. He does that a lot for us and within the last three weeks he has obviously returned to the form we are all use to.

Location: San Antonio
Question: Pop, I can't wait until you are in the Hall of Fame! Anyways, I have a lot of friends who complain about the Spurs playing, "small ball." I explain to them that with the league the way it is today, sometimes you are simply forced into playing small. Can you explain to Spurs fans your thoughts on, "small ball" and when you like to employ it?

GP: There are situations these days where you definitely have to have a "small" game to be able to guard many of the fours in the league who are really an impossible cover for a traditional four or five.

Location: San Antonio
Question: What percentage of being a basketball coach is X's and O's and what percentage is simply being a manager of people? From my season ticket seat, you seem to be great at both!

GP: Well I appreciate the kind words, but both are really necessary and as far as O's and X's go they have to provide a solid base, a system, a point of reference for everyone so there is some organization and consistency. The mental side of the game and the relationship side of the game is as much or more important than the O's and X's.

Location: Augusta, GA
Question: What has been the biggest change in the overall landscape of the NBA since you first took over as head coach?

GP: I would say the rule changes that limit contact out on the floor for the perimeter positions and the shift from traditional bigs to much more mobile, shooting bigs.

JD Coulter
Location: Monroe, NC
Question: Have you changed any of your approach to coaching this year due to the fact that you have so many new players on the team

GP: The basic things that we believe in and our approach to the game is the same. Practice sessions and combinations on the court have caused us to spend more time thinking about who needs to be on the court at what time, in the past we always knew who we wanted on the court.

Chris K.
Location: Washington, DC
Question: Coming into the season fans, media, players, and even you had very high expectations for this Spurs team. Do you feel the high expectations have been a hindrance to success this season? If you could do it again, how would you have approached the issue of expectations for yourself and the team this year?

GP: We would do nothing different because that's never changed. High expectations have been there for over a decade, so that's just irrelevant to us. We just go out and do our job and try to become the best team we can be, but expectations are always there.