Gregg Popovich: Kawhi Leonard Will Be ‘Face of the Spurs’
by Eldon Khorshidi | @eldonadam
Gregg Popovich is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating coaches in the NBA. He’s a no-nonsense, blue-collar, do-your-job type of instructor, with a penchant for giving some of the most laconic and boring interviews you’ll ever see. Yet while he may a disciplinarian due to the demanding nature of his vocation, off-the-court, Pop is a simple, loving guy, who savors and appreciates the little things—such as fine wine, fishing and reading. And when he does open up to the media, well, that’s when he gives us an always-memorable glimpse into his unique, and sometimes amusing, thoughts and perceptions.
In a recent Q+A mailbag with Spurs fans, Popovich shed light on a number of topics. He spoke on his mindset heading into next year, some of his favorite musicians and where he most prefers to vacation. But the one tidbit that stood out most was Popovich’s praise for second-year player Kawhi Leonard, who, according to Pop, will not only be one of the best player on the Spurs, but one of the best players in the entire NBA and the future face of the organization. Pop says Leonard is talented, hard-working and coachable, and is barely scratching the surface in terms of what he can accomplish.
Here are some excerpts from the interview, via NBA.com:
Question: What kind of season do you see Kawhi Leonard having next season? Also, where do you see him in five years?
GP: I think he’s going to be a star. And as time goes on, he’ll be the face of the Spurs I think. At both ends of the court, he is really a special player. And what makes me be so confident about him is that he wants it so badly. He wants to be a good player, I mean a great player. He comes early, he stays late, and he’s coachable, he’s just like a sponge. When you consider he’s only had one year of college and no training camp yet, you can see that he’s going to be something else.
Question: With all these teams trying to stack their rosters over the summer, Lakers and Heat come to mind, how do you prepare yourself and the team for this coming season?
GP: What other teams do is not in our control, so we’ll worry about, as I said, incorporating Kawhi into the program more since he wasn’t here very long. Boris, Patty Mills, look for improvement in Danny Green, work our big guys. Tiago and DeJuan Blair I think are going to have very good seasons for us. So we’ll concentrate on that and what we need to do as a group, and we’ll see how we stack up.
Question: What books are you reading in the offseason?
GP: I usually have a group of books that I read at the same time because I never sit long with one and I’ve got something to do and get back to it, but at this point I’m close to finishing a book about Stalin and another book about Putin. And then on the fiction side I’m trying to get through a book called Ulysses, but I’m not man enough for it. Too difficult to understand, too many big words, concepts that are way over my head, but I’ve always told myself I have to tackle this. I do about every three years try to read it. I’ve never had success yet.
Question: Who was the most coachable player you have ever had on your roster?
GP: Over all my time? Wow. I would say that we’ve had a steady stream of players that have been very team-oriented. And usually when people are team-oriented they’re also very coachable, so it’s hard to pick. I’d say the guy I’ve been toughest on, and he’s come through it all, is Tony Parker. In that sense, he’s listened to me and believed in what I told him even when he was angry with me or at times didn’t understand what I was talking about. But he trusted me, and I’ll always appreciate that.