Speaking on the record with San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich can be a harrowing experience. He can be hyper-literal, pouncing on the choice of one particular word in a drawn-out question, and his in-game Turner Sports interviews have become somewhat legendary as the years pile on.
Coach Pop’s irascible persona might be enough to scare aspiring journalists away from their stated goals – even a few tuition-heavy years into their academic pursuits. Pop recognized as much as he hustled into the Staples Center on Monday night, prior to his team’s loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. From Ben Bolch at the Los Angeles Times:
Arriving about 80 minutes before tip-off because a team bus was running late, Popovich noticed a group of students standing across the hallway from the Spurs' locker room. Informed they were aspiring journalists from Long Beach State, Popovich quipped, "Keep them away from me or they'll want to change their majors."
Coach Popovich, for years, has balanced an engaging if somewhat combative relationship with the media that follows his team. Whether you’re approaching Pop representing a local or national outlet, he’ll be quick to dismiss a lacking question with either a shot at who’s asking it, a quip, or (at his most frustrated moments) an out and out takedown of it. For someone who knows more about the ins and outs of constructing a winning game so expertly, Pop attempts to paint himself as a bit of a basketball simpleton, having his way with any question that dares expound upon “how did the winning team score more points tonight, coach?”
If anything, though, that persona should encourage younger J-school types to want to dive into the field of sports journalism. Coach Popovich’s intelligence and humor make so that even when he attempts to dive into the sort of postgame pablum that many of his contemporaries excel with, things turn out more interesting than they should. Which is a welcome respite, in a nine-month season.
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