Craig Sager Doesn’t Want Gregg Popovich to Be Nice to Him

by April 22, 2014

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich delivered a sweet, heartfelt message to an ailing Craig Sager. The iconic sideline reporter is hospitalized with Leukemia, but he’s in good spirits, and Sager doesn’t want Pop to play nice during their next interview. Per SI:

“It was just fabulous, an uplifting, tremendous thing for me,” Sager said Monday afternoon from his hospital room in Atlanta, where the longtime Turner Sports broadcaster is undergoing treatment for adult acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

“Pop saying he wanted me back and then promising to be nice? I was like, Oh, my God, that’s unbelievable, what an honor,” said Sager, whose exchanges with the curt Popovich have become a much-anticipated part of TNT’s NBA telecasts. “But then I started thinking about it: If I come back and Pop starts being nice to me, it just wouldn’t be right. I want him to go Serbian [Popovich was born to a Serbian father] on me.”

After two days of chemotherapy, Sager was in high spirits. In an effort to add color to the traditional patient couture, the always sartorially splendid Sager said he was wearing a Captain America gown and lemon-colored socks.

On April 10, Sager was in Dallas to work a Spurs-Mavericks game when he started feeling ill. He contacted Dr. Tarek O. Souryal, a longtime friend and the Mavericks’ team physician, who asked him a series of diagnostic questions. Upon hearing the responses, Souryal made a quick diagnosis. “You have to go the hospital now,” Souryal told Sager.

At a Dallas-area hospital, Sager said he was told his hemoglobin had dropped to dangerous levels. “I was walking dead,” Sager said. He was immediately given a series of blood transfusions and additional testing. Sager’s wife, Stacy, flew in for support and together they later returned to their hometown of Atlanta, where Craig underwent a bone marrow biopsy.

The first report back revealed a cancer-free diagnosis. Four hours later at another hospital, though, Sager learned that he had AML. The couple went for a third opinion, and last Thursday the leukemia was confirmed. Doctors started five days of chemotherapy on Saturday, and Sager said he will undergo three treatments each day through Wednesday. He is staying in a blood and bone marrow transplant unit and working on winning the nurses over in his ward.

“After a few of my jokes, I think I have gotten to them,” Sager said. “My personality has not been affected. I’m trying to stay positive and I feel pretty healthy. I feel obviously better than I did last week. Thank God for the NBA on TNT, because I am watching all the games and it is therapeutic.

“Getting my first chemo was very emotional. I’m thinking, What is this going to be like, how will it feel, what effects will it have on my body — a total unknown. I have never been sick a day in my life. All of sudden they are administering the first chemo and [ESPN/ABC play-by-play announcer] Mike Breen gets on the air and says, ‘Hey, we just want to say we miss Craig Sager.’ That happened right as the first chemo came. I was like, Wow, I feel better now from the love and support of the airwaves!”