The original article was written by Jeff McDonald and the link to that article can be found below.
CLEVELAND — The question was about Cavaliers coach Mike Brown and his stated goal to model his team’s approach to offense after the team he once worked for, the Spurs. The Spurs, Brown noted, don’t run offense so much as they “just play the game.”
Before the Spurs’ 122-101 romp over Brown’s Cavs on Tuesday night, someone asked Gregg Popovich to explain his views on offensive basketball. What followed, as transcribed below, were five minutes of expansive oratory that perhaps inadvertently opened a window into the psychology of coaching.
It should be noted, the Spurs went out and logged a season-high 39 assists on 43 field goals in the couple hours after this exchange.
Q. Mike Brown says he wants to get to the point his guys are not running rigid offense, but “just playing basketball.” He says your team is the best at that. In your experience, how long does something like that take to instill?
Popovich: “The quest never stops so to speak. You just keep doing it. Even though our core has been together so long, I still have to remind them, run a drill every now and then or have an emphasis in a scrimmage in a practice where we’re talking about. Maybe we’re holding the ball too long, and it’s not moving, and we’re not going good to great with our shots.”
Q. Can you explain the concept of “good-to-great?”
Popovich: “There are a lot of good shots, but if you can turn that into a great shot, percentages go through the roof. Contested shots are really bad shots. People’s percentage goes down almost by 20, almost without exception. All those things in an offense are things a coach is always trying to develop. It takes time to get everybody to the point where they all buy in and understand how it’s good for the group to do things.
“You want to penetrate not just for you, but for a teammate. Penetrating because I want to make things happen. It could be for me. It could be for a teammate. It could be for the pass after the pass I make. As people start to realize that, then you get a flow and people start playing basketball rather than just running the play that’s called or making up their minds ahead of time.”
Q. How do you get players to take ownership of the offense? Is it a confidence thing?
Popovich: “That’s a good question. A lot depends on the competitiveness and the character of the player. Often times, I’ll appeal to that. Like, I can’t make every decision for you. I don’t have 14 timeouts. You guys got to get together and talk. You guys might see a mismatch that I don’t see. You guys need to communicate constantly — talk, talk, talk to each other about what’s going on on the court.
“I think that communication thing really helps them. It engenders a feeling that they can actually be in charge. I think competitive character people don’t want to be manipulated constantly to do what one individual wants them to do. It’s a great feeling when players get together and do things as a group. Whatever can be done to empower those people …
“Sometimes in timeouts I’ll say, ‘I’ve got nothing for you. What do you want me to do? We just turned it over six times. Everybody’s holding the ball. What else do you want me to do here? Figure it out.’ And I’ll get up and walk away. Because it’s true. There’s nothing else I can do for them. I can give them some bulls—, and act like I’m a coach or something, but it’s on them.
“If they’re holding the ball, they’re holding the ball. I certainly didn’t tell them to hold the ball. Just like, if they make five in a row, I didn’t do that. If they get a great rebound, I didn’t do that. It’s a players’ game and they’ve got to perform. The better you can get that across, the more they take over and the more smoothly it runs.
“Then you interject here or there. You call a play during the game at some point or make a substitution, that kind of thing that helps the team win. But they basically have to take charge or you never get to the top of the mountain.”
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