Leadership. Some of us are born for it, others wilt under the pressure, while others still grow into leaders with age and experience. In sports, leadership is a needed ingredient of utmost importance. Leadership helps mesh a group of talented individuals into a cohesive group with a singular goal. This is difficult considering humans are independent conduits of life experience and informative matter attempting to navigate the world on their own wits. The latter circumstance can be observed in team sports when someone acts in their own interests, sabotaging the team dynamic in the process.
The blackhole post player who forces up a contested shot rather than kick the ball back out, the contract-maddened running back sprinting for a touchdown instead of going out of bounds as instructed simply to prove his worth, the punt returner who fumbles the ball trying to make a flashy play, the examples are literally endless.
So, when a man like five-time NBA champion Greg Popovich decides to speak out on race, it behooves us all to listen. He knows a thing or two about leadership. With three Coach of the Year Awards and training in intelligence from the Air Force Academy, Coach Pop just might be more qualified to be president than the president himself.
However, it isnt for his academic accolades or courtside acumen that Pops leadership abilities are so apparent. In a move that should be in the first paragraph on the first page of any book ever written about leadership, Popovich once against has taken the side of the disenfranchised. He was one of the only sports figures to speak out in favor of the Womens March on Washington, and has been on Donald Trumps neck, proverbially, whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Far from petty, Popovichs words are measured, purposeful and right on point regarding our countrys reneged upon promises, and the Oval Offices failure to provide leadership amid uncertain times nationally and internationally.
During election season, Popovich was the most vocal dissenter to Trump-o-mania, calling the Presidents campaign rhetoric exactly what it was; xenophobic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic.
He continued to take the lead in calling out Trump after the election. He even shot an unheeded warning to the presidents constituency when he said this in January; Weve got to a point where you really cant believe anything that comes out of his mouth.
Amid the rapidly increasing nationalist dust storm being kicked up to obscure the white supremacy and institutional racism that hides in plain sight, the San Antonio Spurs head coach said this during the 2017 NBA Playoffs when asked a question. Theres a dark cloud, a pall over the whole country. Its got nothing to do with the democrats losing the election. Its got to do with the way one individual conducts himself. And thats embarrassing.
With the NBA season looming just around the corner, Coach Pop finds himself in front of the microphone. Like Mos Def in 1998, he didnt disappoint.
(FULL) San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich participates in the press conference for the 2017 NBA Media Day and discusses athletes protesting against social injustice and the upcoming NBA season.
We all know the situation, and it gets beaten up every day by talking heads. It starts to get personal. I think we all know why. We all know who the source is and where a lot of the division comes from, but to dwell on that sometimes I think is the wrong way to go, because its so obvious now. Its boring. The childishness and the gratuitous fear-mongering and race-baiting has been so consistent that its almost expected.
The bar has been lowered so far that I think its more important to be thinking about what to do at a more organic roots-based level, thinking about the efforts to restrict voter registration, comments that demean cultures, ethnic groups, races, women, those sorts of things. What can be done in an organic way to fight that?
Because we know how everything happens. We know where the power in the country is. We know the racism that exists. But its gone beyond that to the point where Im more worried about and more confused by the people around our president. These are intelligent people who know exactly whats going on, who were basically very negative about his actions, but now it seems like its condoned.
We saw it this weekend with his comments about people who should be fired or people who shouldnt be allowed to do this sort of thing. I wonder what the people think about who voted for him, where their line is, how much they can take, where does the morality and the decency kick in?
I understand very well they didnt like their choice, economically. A lot of people had a problem, and he was the right guy at the right time to tap into that mood. And people overlooked one hell of a lot to be able to pull that trigger and vote in that direction, but it was because they wanted change, they felt ignored, they actually thought something would happen that would aid them.
But at what price, is the question. And as we see the actions over and over again, one wonders what is in their heads. Have they come to the conclusion that they had the wrong vehicle? They might have had good ideas, good reasons why they wanted to go the way they went, but someone else that had a little bit more decency about how they approach other people and other groups might have served better. And thats what I worry about in the country.
You wonder about if you live where you thought you lived. I just heard a comment this morning from a NASCAR owner and from Mr. Petty that just blew me away just blew me away. Where the owner described that he would get the Greyhound bus tickets for anybody to leave, and theyd be fired, and Mr. Petty, who said people who act the way we saw Sunday, they should leave the country. Thats where I live. I had no idea that I lived in a country where people would actually say that sort of thing.
In the contemporary context relative to his historic peers, Popovich is every bit the equal of the late University of North Carolina Tarheels head basketball coach Dean Smith, the late Red Auerbach who coached the Boston Celtics to 11 championships, and the late basketball innovator John McClendon, who created the four corners offense, trapping, pressing and is credited with creating fastbreak basketball as well.
Popovichs five NBA championships is a great marker of leadership, indeed. However, its not entirely for his championships that he is to be praised. In speaking up for the voiceless, and shaming America for its persistent denial of rights, respect and humanity to tens of millions of its taxpaying citizens, he is reminiscent of the pedigree of Dean Smith, whose father coached the first integrated high school team in the state of Kansas at Topeka High. Smith also played on his fathers team.
The younger Smith would go onto recruit New York City phenom Charlie Scott, the first of many black players at the University of North Carolina in 1966, a time when he faced the potential of physical harm for doing so. Pop is also kin to Red Auerbach, whose eye for spotting leaders led him to name Bill Russell as his coaching successor when he retired in 1966. Naming a black man as a head coach in Boston ruffled quite a few feathers at the time.
Popovich is brave in a manner not unlike basketballs creator James Naismith, who agreed to mentor a young black man named John McClendon in a time of great racial unrest in America.
There are many instances in which the game of basketball inspired real world action among its white practitioners who were in favor of changing their immediate world for a better toward more diverse tomorrow.
Popovich is only the most recent and most visibly vocal example. But make no mistake about it, he is carrying on a time-honored tradition of leadership in the face of hate.