Monday, Oct. 30 – Spurs at Celtics
Pregame – Pop on Stevens: “He’s Going to Be a Great One”
BOSTON – As the most successful NBA coach of this generation, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich knows great coaching when he sees it.
There may be no coach in the league that he admires more than Brad Stevens, who he will face off against tonight when his Spurs hit the court at TD Garden to take on the Boston Celtics.
Over the last few seasons, Popovich has given tremendous praise to Stevens. Ahead of Monday’s tip-off, he gave the young, promising coach his greatest compliment to date.
“He is a special person on and off the court,” Popovich said shortly before tip-off. “He’s very intelligent. And intelligence is fine, but if it doesn’t come along with incisiveness, judgment and emotional maturity, it doesn’t do you much good. But he’s got all of those things, and that’s large. Not that many people have that. It shows in the way he handles people, the way he coaches. He’s going to be a great one before it’s all over with. And he’s already a hell of a coach.”
Stevens consistently earns praise from all around the league, but it holds greater significance when it comes from one of the greatest coaches of all time.
“It’s flattering, obviously,” Stevens said of his counterpart’s praise for him. “He’s a great role model for our profession. He’s a guy that’s a basketball coach, but he’s not defined as a basketball coach. He’s got a lot of other interests; he does a lot of good things in the community. And he’s always open to helping other coaches. I can’t say enough good things about him. He’s at the top of his profession.”
Popovich, who is in his 22nd year as San Antonio’s head coach, is not only at the top of his profession currently; he’s continuing to rise up the ranks of the all-time coaching greats. If his Spurs win tonight, he earn his 1,155th win, which would put him past Phil Jackson for sixth-place on the all-time wins list.
Stevens, in his fifth season, is currently at 170 wins. Asked if he plans to stick around long enough to reach such Popovich’s win total, Stevens deadpanned, “There’s no shot. No shot.”
Popovich later smiled at Stevens’ response, while continuing to pour on the praise.
“That would be smart on his part,” said Popovich. “I would advise him [not to stick around as long as me]. He’s got many more capabilities than me. This is all I can do.”
It’s too early to tell if Stevens will stick around to reach Popovich’s level of success, but for now, we can appreciate the treat of seeing the two talented coaches face off in a battle of minds from the sidelines. Tune into NBC Sports Boston at 7:30 to catch the action.
– Taylor C. Snow