Over his brilliant career with the San Antonio Spurs, Gregg Popovich has come across as a no-nonsense, demanding coach. He gets what he needs from his players, and if that involves a little yelling, then so be it.
That's the perception, at least — people rarely conform so readily to stereotypes. In the last few years, Popovich has gotten a lot calmer, albeit with the occasional flare-up. So why has this happened? Tony Parker proffers an explanation. From beat writer Jeff McDonald at Spurs Nation (via TrueHoop):
For much of the season, Tony Parker has been waiting for coach Gregg Popovich to lose it.
Game in and game out, win or lose, good play or poor, Mount Popovich would not erupt. Not like it used to in its magma-spewing heyday.
"As he gets older and drinks more wine, he gets more patient," Parker said.
Wednesday night, with a lead against Atlanta growing tenuous and the Spurs sleepwalking out of the halftime locker room, Popovich's patience finally wore out, and Parker finally got his explosion. A quick timeout 60 seconds into the third quarter, followed by a mass substitution that brought three starters to the bench, sent a clear message in what became an easy-does-it 105-83 win at the AT&T Center.
At the time of this timeout, the Spurs had let a four-point halftime lead shrink to just two points after a massive 4-2 run by the Hawks. It's a little weird that Popovich would have gotten so angry about their performance in such a short period of time. I guess he must have thought they didn't respond well to his inspirational halftime speech.
Or, if we take Parker's wine talk to heart, perhaps Pop had a particularly disappointing bottle of cabernet that night and was still stewing about it. If wine can make him calmer, then there is clearly a dangerous precedent in which wine affects the coach's mood for both good and bad. He should probably get hooked on drinkable yogurt like his players suggest.