My 2016 presidential vote will go to….Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich.
The San Antonio Spurs are battling with Oklahoma City for the best record in the NBA’s Western Conference. The squad has found lasting success buying into a system of excellence created in part by the team’s unique head coach. A lot of different adjectives are used to describe Gregg Popovich. Is presidential one of them? For me it is. In 2016, my presidential vote will go to….Gregg Popovich. Seriously. I have sound reasoning. Here’s why Pop would be a perfect fit in the White House.
It was Veteran’s Day of 2013 when I stumbled across an article about Popovich. In it the Spurs head coach made it clear his feelings that America doesn’t do enough for veterans. Veterans’ affairs could make a pretty good platform for a presidential run. The more digging I did on Popovich the more I wanted to write a check to his campaign.
Popovich is the son of eastern European immigrants. He studied Soviet studies at the US Air Force Academy, where he also played basketball. He underwent Air Force intelligence gathering and processing training and even briefly worked as a spy in eastern Turkey. So the pedigree is there. A son of immigrants with a middle-class background who worked his way through a prestigious military academy and then has the capabilities to represent the US government against the USSR. Put it in the bank.
Popovich began his coaching career at Pomona-Pitzer, where he was also an associate professor. It was at the school he became enraptured with community service. “I chaired the committee that investigated fraternities,” he says. “I was scared s—less going in, but the dean wanted someone from athletics who wouldn’t pussyfoot around. We made a lot of changes with the way frats were operating. I was a member of the women’s commission, too. We looked into issues of gender equality, discrimination against gays, abuses in athletics. Those kinds of things are what I really enjoyed,” he told Sports Illustrated.
He’s more cultured than you would ever expect from a basketball coach. He is part owner of a winery, has a 3,000 bottle cellar of his own. He is fluent in Russian, enjoys foreign films, reads classic literature and discusses foreign affairs with his foreign players.
The Spurs have built an NBA dynasty by embracing teamwork and shunning the league’s current trend of its superstars creating all-star teams in metropolises. San Antonio is one of the smallest markets in the NBA and, with all apologies to the Alamo City, is not a place well-paid basketball players would prefer to maintain residency. Yet in this environment, the Spurs have created one of the most stable organizations in all of sports. Whether he will admit it or not (and he won’t), much of this stability comes from Popovich and the culture he has created. Said Popovich to Sports Illustrated, “Yes, we’re disciplined with what we do. But that’s not enough. Relationships with people are what it’s all about. You have to make players realize you care about them. And they have to care about each other and be interested in each other. Then they start to feel a responsibility toward each other. Then they want to do for each other.
“And I have always thought it helps if you can make it fun, and one of the ways you do that is let them think you’re a little crazy, that you’re interested in things outside of basketball. ‘Are there weapons of mass destruction? Or aren’t there? What, don’t you read the papers?’ You have to give the message that the world is wider than a basketball court.”
Popovich deflects praise like Tim Duncan does basketballs and Popovich treats his superstar exactly like he does his 12th man. The Spurs head coach has created something greater than a basketball team. He has brought together a community of men with a shared interest of lasting success. These are men with vastly different talents and backgrounds but shared egos. Yet Popovich has asked these men to harness their talents, backgrounds and egos solely to improve the community. The Spurs have responded by winning basketball games, a lot of basketball games. Can you think of another organization that would benefit from this kind of philosophy? Maybe an organization where men and women with vastly different talents and backgrounds but shared egos come together to make extremely important decisions about the future of a nation? Could this attitude improve a community that is so stuffed up that it recently had to shutdown. I think Popovich could give a pretty good halftime speech on Capital Hill. Maybe he could tell senators and representatives to get “some nasty,” and fight not against each other but for each other and their constituents.
Speaking of “some nasty,” which is the famous speech he gave to his Spurs that spurred a comeback over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1 of the 2012 Western Conference Finals, Popovich has a knack for finding ways to win, even if it isn’t popular. He practically invented Hack-a-Shaq. He has been fined by NBA commish David Stern for resting his aging superstars during marquee matchups. He is not averse to getting himself thrown out of an arena if it will motivate his team to a victory.
“His people-managing skills, they’re off the charts,” former Popovich assistant Mike Brown told ESPN. “You watch how he handles different situations with people, whether it’s people in the front office or players 1-15 or people that work for him and you try to copy that, to a certain degree, if you can.”
Popovich has a truculence with the media that borders on both insanity and hilarity. He is quick to chastise a journalist publicly for a question that he feels does not meet his IQ muster. He has a gut-busting repartee with TNT reporter Craig Sager (a man who wears suits so fine, they make Kevin Garnett look like a hobo). You can see his joy in berating Sager, even if it is only in the slight twinkle of an eye. Yet even Sager admits that Popovich is a one-of-a-kind talent, telling Sports Illustrated “People will ask me, ‘Isn’t Gregg Popovich a jerk?’ and I say, ‘Actually, he’s one of the greatest in any sport.’ “
Isn’t that the essence of the presidency? You won’t always agree with a commander-in-chief, but the best presidents are the ones that command respect even in lieu of agreement.
Popovich wouldn’t even need a press secretary. He could do the job himself and save the taxpayers some money.
Q: “Mr. President, What do you attribute to the fact that 35% of Americans are not happy with your handling of the crises in Uzbekistan?”
A: “Why don’t you go ask those people? Next question, maybe one that’s not idiotic.”
I could just see it. Hands drop out of the air, Jay Carney’s head explodes, camera lenses shatter and tape recorders suddenly stop recording. Popovich just stares blankly and his scowl lightens a little bit.
He has the nickname already. “Pop,” it’s perfect. It’s reminiscent of Reagan’s “Dutch.” It has that fatherly essence that tells people that this is a man that you need to heed.
Just imagine the staff that Gregg Popovich could assemble around him:
Vice President Tim Duncan: Duncan would have little trouble winning the Vice Presidential debate. “Mrs. Palin, I’m not great with this public speaking thing but I will crush you with my size 16 sneakers.”
Chief of Staff Larry Brown: Brown has been around. He knows the game and he knows how it’s played even if he has failed as much as he has succeeded. That’s what you want in a chief of staff someone who isn’t quite presidential material but is smart enough to recognize someone who is.
Secretary of Defense David Robinson: He’s “the Admiral.” Without Robinson we might not have Popovich. Without nuclear weapons America might have lost the Cold War. It’s good to have abnormally big, strong and dangerous weapons protecting you.
Secretary of State Tony Parker: Was a part of his native France’s bid for the 2012 Olympics. The games went to England. Okay not a great resume-builder but he was married to Eva Longoria – and allegedly cheated on her with a teammate’s wife. You know, let’s drop Parker and put in Manu Ginobli instead.
Secretary of Treasury Robert Horry: “Big Shot Rob” printing money. C’mon that just writes itself.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Sean Elliott: The first player to ever return to the court following a major organ transplant (he got a new kidney).
Secretary of Justice Avery Johnson: Avery just got it done and he’s only 5’11. He was an anchor for Pop and has struggled away from his mentor. He needs to be alongside Pop. He can be Pop’s Top Cop.
First Lady Erin Popovich: A woman who stands by her man (they have been married for over three decades) and she is capable of shutting him down too.
And look who he might run against:
Chris Christie: A guy who is from New Jersey, looks like Tony Soprano and has an office run like the Mafia will never enter the Oval Office. I just wish James Gandolfini was alive for the biopic. Bridgegate: The Rise and Fall. Martin Scorsese to direct. RIP James Gandolfini.
Hillary Clinton: America is not ready for William J. Clinton to be the country’s first male first lady. I don’t think anybody is ready for that….I don’t think Hillary is ready for that.
Rick Perry: Only if Perry spent the last four years learning how to speak….and think.
Joe Biden: Smiling his way through debates and sleeping his way through speeches since 2008.
John Kerry: Now, not only do Americans think of Kerry as pompous but the Israelis do as well. They also want him to “leave us alone.” What exactly is “messianic?” It’s what the chosen people think of the American secretary of state.
Ted Cruz: A staunch conservative from the state of Texas. That fiddle done been played.
Jeb Bush: A staunch conservative with the last name Bush. That fiddle done wore out.
I will leave you with this thought. Dennis Rodman was once a player for Popovich. Popovich traded him. Dennis Rodman has referred to Popovich as a “jerk” and told him to “kiss my a–.” Rodman would go on to become bosom buddies with a brutal North Korean dictator. Let that percolate a little bit. I think that’s the only endorsement Pop needs.
Sure, maybe the premise for this entire article is bull—t. But really does it contain any more bull—t than the content that will makeup the 30 second political television advertisements that are poised to invade your living room sooner than you think? Popovich for President. I’m getting my buttons and bumper stickers ready. In 2016, I will be voting Gregg Popovich.
This message has not been approved by Popovich for President 2016.