If you think about some of the best NBA coaches, Gregg Popovich name would come up in those conversations. Apart from all his accomplishments during his 22-year tenure with the San Antonio Spurs, Popovich is known as a brilliant basketball mind.
The main reason why he succeeded for so many years is that he always learned how to be a better coach and was able to adapt throughout the years. Popovich had brilliant assistants who would, later on, become really good NBA coaches which is proof the Spurs system and culture work.
When you look at the Spurs system you will always see a lot of movements and different play calling that actually bring the added value on the court. Advanced stats show that Popovich is on the top of the list of coaches who call different plays which are pretty hard for other teams to follow.
In a great interview for The Athletic, one of the scouts said how Popovich is sometimes calling plays who are several years old.
“That’s not so much the case with Popovich, whose play-calling archives are on a Library of Alexandria level. ‘Pop might call a play and I’ll go through my notes and see that the last time he called it was eight years ago,’ says a West scout. ‘But it will be the same term, same hand signal, same play.’ The notoriously clandestine Popovich would likely never reveal its contents, but his playbook must contain thousands of well-archived designs, accumulated through over two decades of Spurs stewardship.”
Popovich is always adjusting plays to follow the changes within the team and the players he has at his disposal. Obviously after losing Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Manu Ginobili last year forced Popovich and his team to make substantial iterations to their playbook.
Nevertheless, there are certain plays that are obviously working no matter who is on the team and Popovich knows that. It’s crazy to think he actually knows that at a certain moment in the game it makes sense call out a play he hasn’t called in over 8 years.
Popovich is also known for being really clear on what plays he calls because they involve a lot of hand gesture like the infamous play called “Shake”.
“Popovich is also known for having used one of the more ridiculous looking hand signals for a play called ‘Shake.’ When signaling the call, Pop looked like he was pantomiming an onanistic act. Then again, that’s up for interpretation. ‘You could say he was shaking up some dice with that hand,’ an East scout mused.”
Losing Popovich will be a tremendous blow to the Spurs organization and that moment might come sooner than we realize even though he still has a couple of years on his contract with the team. Nevertheless, as they did for the past 20 years, the Spurs were always able to survive and adapt to almost any change.
This anecdote with Popovich calling out old plays is just a small detail on what makes the Spurs a great organization in which every player has a role in which he thrives in.