Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Sports

May 23, 2014

Morgan: Pops is simply the best

Corsicana — The best basketball coach in the history of the world was obviously John Wooden. The Wizard of Westwood dominated college basketball like no one before him, and certainly no one since.

While it is hard to compare players from different eras, coaches are a different species. All you have to do is check the record books.

As great as Adolph Rupp, Hank Iba, Bobby Knight, Dean Smith and others were, none of them could hold a candle to the little man from Indiana.

However, in the NBA, nothing is quite as clear cut. You can certainly make a case for Red Aurbach and his postgame celebratory cigar.

The Celtics of that era were certainly UCLAesque. Of course, give me that cast of characters starting with Bill Russell, and I could win a few games.

Phil Jackson has the record, but how many coaches spend the vast majority of their career coaching Michael Jordan, then taking the reins of a team with lead horses named Shaq and Kobe? The Zen Master is and was a great coach. The Triangle Offense was good, but not game changing in itself. All the mantras in the world won’t win championships without the great players.

Erik Spoelstra will wind up with multiple championship rings. I love that. Every time the one-time video coordinator of the Heat gets a ring, so does my step son.

He is certainly the greatest Filipino-American coach in the history of the NBA, but then again, you take the most dominant player since Michael Jordan and add in two great sidekicks and coaching becomes a little less important.  

With Lebron, D Wade and Chris Bosh my 10-year old grandson could probably make the playoffs.

My choice for the best of the best is just down the road in San Antonio. As I have written before, Greg Popovich has the credentials to be mentioned in the same breath with any coach who has ever been in the Association.

I know I discussed this just a few short Saturdays ago when the Spurs were playing our Mavs, but I think it’s worth repeating. Watching the Spurs cut through the opposition on the way to another finals appearance just cements my opinion.

Pops and his band of senior citizen all stars are on the verge of sweeping the OKC Thunder and the League’s MVP.  

Now, I realize that our neighbors to the north have lost center Serge Ibaka for the rest of the playoffs leaving them pretty bare around the lane.

However, they still have MVP Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook along with some others whose names are not unfamiliar. Wednesday night, the Spurs beat them by 35!

Pops has been doing this for over a decade and a half with his core players. But, look at his core. Tim Duncan is 38. Manu Ginobili is 36, while Tony Parker is a mere 32, but has been in the league since he was in junior high (at least it feels that way).  However, the rest of the roster over the length of Pops’ streak has turned over more than a frozen Pillsbury pastry.

Wednesday night, Danny Green hit seven three pointers accounting for all 21 of his points. Where’d he come from? He was a second round pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers back in ’09.

Two other major contributors were Boris Diaw and Tiago Splitter, neither of whom has ever been confused with Larry Bird or Magic. Another contributor on the night was Marco Bellineli, who invented either the telescope or the 12 cylinder engine.

Greg Popovich was at one time an assistant coach with the Spurs. In 1994, he returned to the Alamo City as the Spurs’ general manager (where he was smart enough to trade away our unofficial ambassador to North Korea, Dennis Rodman). In 1996, he fired Coach Bob Hill and took over the reins of the team himself.

If you want a grasp of just how long he’s been winning in the NBA with Tim Duncan just think back to the turn of the century. The’99 championship was won with the Little General, Avery Johnson at the helm, long before he came to play and coach with our Mavericks.

Through the 2003 season, they had three point bombs from the parking lot with Steve Kerr, the new head coach of the Golden State Warriors.

Pops doesn’t light up on the bench a’la Red Aurbach. He doesn’t meditate in the locker room like Phil Jackson. He’s not nearly as glib as Don Nelson. All Greg Popovich does is win basketball games.

Every time we start to think that the core of the Spurs is over the hill, that other teams have more firepower and younger superstars or we write off the dour genius on the San Antonio bench, all he does is go out and return to the finals.

I hope the San Antonio fans appreciate what they have while they have him.

I fear the rest of the country won’t recognize his genius until after he’s gone. Pops may not be John Wooden, but he’s the closest I’ve seen.

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