Recently, Gregg Popovich has been in the headlines after becoming the all-time leader in wins amongst all NBA head coaches in history. A truly remarkable feat for coach Pop, who only added to his already impressive resume and solidified himself amongst the cream of the crop. Although he is universally loved by fans and his players due to his comedic nature, Popovich still knew when to get serious and strict. Just ask Tony Parker.
Rough start to a great career
Tony Parker finished his career as a Spurs legend, 4x Champion, Finals MVP, 6x All-Star, and one of the best international players the NBA has ever seen, but the start to his career in San Antonio wasn't easy by any means. It took time for a 19-year kid coming overseas into such a franchise to be the starting point guard next to Tim Duncan and under Gregg Popovich.
We already heard how Duncan didn't speak to Parker until he proved himself and doubted they would ever win with him as the head of the offense, but TD wasn't the only one giving Tony a hard time. Even though they had a great relationship by the end of Parker's career, Popovich made sure to test Tony early and get the best out of him. In his autobiography, Parker shared how his rookie season looked:
"From my first NBA practices, Gregg Popovich was really hard on me. 'Get your head out of your a**!' He cursed a lot and said other crazy things. It wasn't easy to handle."
Tony Parker, Beyond All of My Dreams
Gregg Popovich may be known for his witty one-liners and humorous statements, but when things get serious, he knows to explode and it's a scary sight to see. Parker was still very raw when he joined the Spurs, but Pop saw the potential to create the point guard of his future. In order to get him to that level, Popovich had to go hard at Tony.
'During my rookie season, I sometimes had tears in my eyes in the shower after practice. I told myself 'I'll never be able to satisfy this coach. He'll never be happy.' All he did was push me. Push me to test my limits. But there were never limits'. Parker said
'It sometimes bordered on abuse with me... There's no denying it -- Pop helped me a lot. It's still hard to say what my career would have been like with another coach. I think I still would have had a great career. He surely helped me to outdo myself at certain times. I think that we helped each other and that we pushed each other', Parker added.
Obviously, Popovich decided to have some tough love for his young point guard, almost breaking him and making him go back to Europe. But thankfully, Parker had enough toughness and character in him to break through that, persevere, and become the undisputed floor general of one of the best teams of the 2000s.
Parker remains thankful for that to Popovich, as he played a huge part in his illustrious career. He probably would have made it even without landing in San Antonio, but growing up fast and young under Pop's strict voice probably made Parker the best possible version of himself.