NBA

If Donald Trump Can Be President, Why Can’t Gregg Popovich?

There is no question that this election is one of the craziest in American history. There has not been a political movement like Donald Trump that has had such a polarizing effect on the American population. Few candidates have commanded such respect and loyalty from their supporters while also inspiring deep, passionate hate from his opposers.

No one can pinpoint what is behind the Trump phenomenon but it is clear that the people are fed up with old-time Washington and are looking for new types of candidates. If someone like Donald Trump can have this much success with no political background from the business world then why can’t someone from the sports world like Gregg Popovich too?

While this is a pipe-dream at best, there is an argument to be made that he could do the job and do it well. His military background, his understanding on how to run an organization, his incredible leadership skills, success scouting overseas, and treatment of veteran players are all indications that he could be leader of the free world.

Coach Popovich’s Air Force Academy yearbook picture

Popovich is one of several successful basketball coaches that has a military background. Pop attended and starred for the Air Force Academy from 1966-1970; he was named captain of the team his senior year and was the team’s leading as well.

After graduating with a degree in Soviet Studies he did his mandatory five-years gathering intelligence and touring Eastern Europe with the U.S Armed Forces Team. While touring with that team he led them all the way to an AAU Championship and earned a tryout with the 1972 Olympic Team after finishing the season as captain and leading scorer. He also mulled over taking a position with the CIA but chose basketball instead. This undoubtedly helped him be not only the best coach he can be, but also the best executive he could be.

Being President of Basketball operations is more than just knowing how to build a team, but understanding and forecasting contracts and managing cap space. Since he took over the San Antonio Spurs in 1996 there hasn’t been a team in sports that has managed cap space as well as they have while also maintaining a high level of success. Imagine what Pop could do with the budget in two-terms. If the Spurs can afford Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, LaMarcus Aldridge, Danny Green, and David West and still be afloat I have a feeling Pop could find the money needed to cut the deficit. His ability to balance the team’s basketball budget is not just a testament to his business sense but also his ability to make a deal and get people to sacrifice personal gain to come together for the better of the team.

There hasn’t been a coach that can get people to get along and buy into a system quite like Pop. He has won since the late ’90s and it is thanks to his ability to get players to work together towards a common goal and to follow him. The Spurs are like an elite fraternity at this point in the NBA.

It seems that every coach that has worked under him and every player that has been in his system enjoy incredible success when they leave because of his impact. Take a look at Mike Budenholzer, Alvin Gentry, Monty Williams, Steve Kerr, Brett Brown, and Quin Snyder. All of them were either assistant coaches or players that have gone onto incredible success in their own right; Budenholzer and Kerr are routinely in the best coach in the NBA conversation.

Players like George Hill, Marco Belinelli, and Tiago Splitter can also attribute a lot of their success now to Pop. When Hill came out of little known IUPUI he was virtually unknown but after a few years in Pop’s system he became one of the more well-rounded point guards in the league and was soon traded for Kawhi Leonard.

Belinelli was on a downswing before he signed with the Spurs in 2013. He had been on four teams in five years and was looking to jumpstart his career in San Antonio. Two years later he had won a championship ring and earned a three-year, $19 million contract with the Sacramento Kings. Under Pop he was able to learn how to transition from being the focal point of an offense to playing a smaller role and playing for the good of the team.

Splitter was taken with the 28th overall pick out of Brazil back in 2007 but didn’t join the Spurs until 2010. Soon after joining the team Pop turned him from an unknown foreign prospect to the team’s starting center during the 2012-2013 season. After five seasons in San Antonio he was traded to Atlanta where under former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer he has become one of the most reliable reserve big men in the league. These are just a couple of the foreign players that have spent time with the Spurs.

Scouting foreign players and dealing with foreign players could not be more different, but if people use Donald Trump’s success in international business as a measuring stick for future foreign policy then Pop’s ability to find great players all over world could be used to project how he would do. Scouting foreign players is all about fostering good relationships and building connections.

Since Pop took over in 1996 the Spurs have had 26 players from other countries, including Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili who have been two cornerstones of the organization for many years. Popovich routinely finds foreign and domestic prospects and develops them into the best version of themselves possible that are usually with the team for many years.

His treatment of veteran players indicates how he would treat war veterans and the elderly. It has been no secret that for many years the core of the Spurs has been made up of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili; players who are no longer spring-chickens. Pop’s system of managing minutes has not only added years onto their playing careers but also improved their overall health.

The Spurs could care less about regular season wins or numbers, their only goal is to get to the playoffs and win an NBA championship. He puts the player’s health above all else. He understands that in the grand scheme of things that extra win in April means absolutely nothing if it leads to fatigue and injuries in the post season and that veteran players can be as effective as they were in their prime if managed properly. There is no reason he wouldn’t carry this same philosophy over for the treatment of veterans and elderly in America.

If this election is an indication of anything, it shows that Americans are sick and tired of politics as usual. If the public starts to turn to alternative candidates why not look towards someone like Gregg Popovich? It isn’t far-fetched to imagine that if he did decide to enter the CIA instead of entering coaching that he would’ve been President anyways. His no-nonsense attitude and track record for results speaks for themselves. There isn’t a person that can say anything negative about how the Spurs are run and that is all thanks to Popovich. Plus, how fun would the State of the Union be with Pop at the helm?

*Photo via NBA.com, edit via @EfrainRamos

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