Popovich’s rep takes hit after Finals

Gregg Popovich is a grouch, a four-time NBA champion and a man not known for taking kindly to questions.

He has made a whole persona of belittling reporters who ask questions he doesn’t think are worthwhile, and that makes it ironic that he left unanswered some rather obvious questions about two major coaching decisions he made in the 2013 NBA Finals. In particular, check out the 5:43 mark of the video below:

It has to be disclaimed that this was the first Finals he had lost in five tries. That will make some people doubt the quality of the previous four opponents, but that’s not a serious argument. He was 4-for-4. You don’t have to answer for that.

But the San Antonio Spurs coach will have to answer for a couple decisions late in his fifth Finals series. In Game 6, he had Tim Duncan out of the game on a key last possession and Miami got a second possession that led to a tie game at the end of regulation. Miami won in overtime.

And at the end of Game 7, with the Spurs down by four with 26 seconds left he ran a play for Manu Ginobili, who made a turnover, basically sealing the game for Miami. Tony Parker was out of the game. Ginobili said it was because Popovich wanted more shooters in the game, and Parker agreed with the strategy.

“I always trust Pop,” Parker said, “and Pop’s judgment.”

Maybe that’s real, and maybe those are just kind words from a coworker. In either case, not everybody trusted Pop’s judgment Thursday night.

If you don’t know, Duncan is probably the best of all time at his position and Ginobili had committed eight turnovers in Game 6. These two decisions were perplexing to some even as they were happening, and both came up bust for San Antonio, so the controversy is obvious.

Whether they cost the Spurs the series is another matter that depends on conjecture as to what would have happened under different circumstances.

But the reality is, the best coach in the NBA was in charge of the Spurs, and his decisions didn’t work out. That doesn’t mean they were the wrong decisions, it just means we’ll never know.

It’s the “hindsight is 20/20 problem.” In theory, the alternative always works out.

And, more or less, Popovich has always avoided the hindsight problem because when he has been put in this position, he has always succeeded.

This time he didn’t, and it puts him in a new position. For once, he doesn’t get to dish it out. He has to take it.