Working with individual egos to operate in a team setting can be one of biggest challenges coaches face. However, the San Antonio Spurs seem to have the concept locked in. Over 20 years, the Spurs have compiled a .713 winning percentage, and have captured five championships. In order to get an idea of how they continue this winning culture, Time’s David Coyle visited a team practice.
“When Popovich wanted to connect with a player, he moved in tight enough that their noses nearly touched. As warm-ups continued, he kept roving, connecting,” Coyle said. “A former player walked up, and Popovich beamed, his face lighting up in a toothy grin. They talked for five minutes, catching up on life, kids and teammates. “Love you, brother,” Popovich said as they parted.
Minutes earlier, instead of reviewing film of the loss to the Thunder, Popovich had the team watch a CNN documentary on the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. Once the documentary concluded, Popovich asked questions, something he always does to draw connections between historical moments and the players.
Popovich also uses food and wine to make connections with players, as the team and coaches are always having dinners together.
“Food and wine aren’t just food and wine,” Spurs general manager R.C. Buford said. “They’re his vehicle to make and sustain a connection, and Pop is really intentional about making that connection happen.”
While on court success matters, building these everlasting relationships off the court are so important. This is what makes the Spurs one of the best franchises in all of sports and the blueprint for all other teams to emulate.
Say what you will about the team losing Tim Duncan to retirement, and the end of the road nearing for Manu Ginoibli and Tony Parker, perhaps losing Pop to his eventual retirement will be the biggest blow to the franchise.