Gregg Popovich established himself as one of the greatest coaches in NBA history. Despite him winning an NBA championship 5 time and coaching the same team for 20 plus years, Popovich established himself as a great people person who is able to understand his players on a much deeper level than just basketball.
One of the examples of that type of leadership and mentorship was on display during DeMar DeRozan’s arrival to the Spurs in a trade that pretty much shocked the entire NBA community. Popovich understood the importance DeMar has for the team in order to keep them in playoff contention after the departure of one the best two-way players Kawhi Leonard.
After his arrival to San Antonio, it was obvious DeMar was not happy with his new team because there was the sense of trust and respect between him and the Raptors organization that he will not be traded at any circumstances.
“When the trade first happened, he was pretty dejected. He was not a happy camper. “And I didn’t know him personally, so I wanted to make him feel like he was at home.”
They both spent some time together in Las Vegas, where they were both apart of the US national team which gave provided Popovic an opportunity to speak with DeMar about his new situation. Popovich also learned that DeMar wasn’t happy about the trade, however, he made the initial approach which entailed him telling DeMar more about Spurs, their culture and also the system they have implemented.
He also wanted to know more about DeMar and his family but also his time while growing up in Compton. He offered help in a sense of making DeMar feel just like at home when he arrives in Texas.
“It was just getting to know somebody. The basketball court is one thing, but I don’t think guys really give totally unless they really believe that you care about them. Knowing what he went through with that trade, I wanted him to know that we cared.”
This is the type of leadership Popovich is known for among his players and colleagues. Personal approach to a person is something that differentiates the best from the good ones and it’s the main reason why the San Antonio Spurs have been so successful for the past 20 years and why a lot of players want to play for their ball club.