Gregg Popovich was heading into the media room for pregame interviews before Game 5 at Staples Center Tuesday and noticed Clippers broadcaster and friend Ralph Lawler on the aisle.
Popovich slowed his walk to say hello, but he tripped and nearly fell.
When he got to the podium, he joked with a room full of reporters when he said: "Ralph Lawler tried to trip me!"
Lawler laughed about Popovich’s statement but was initially worried about Popovich.
"Well I’m glad he didn’t go down, fortunately," Lawler said. "He had his hip replaced last June, that was his left hip, and he hasn’t even felt that hip since then, he told me walking out. He said that’s the first time he’s felt a twinge in that hip since then.
"I really felt badly about it. He just had paused for a second on his dart into the room to shake hands, say hi and ‘how you doing, Ralph?’ Then he tripped and almost went down. I hope he didn’t create some sort of a problem."
There was certainly no problem between Lawler, the longtime Clippers broadcaster and Popovich. That exchange was all in good fun.
"He’s a terrific man and a good friend," Lawler said.
Popovich had a rare happy-go-lucky interview session with reporters and didn’t mock any questions.
He has joked with Lawler and Clippers analyst Mike Smith earlier in the series in a press conference in San Antonio.
"I’ve just gotten lucky with him," Lawler said. "Some people aren’t so lucky with him and get buried by him. I think he’s one of the most special people we have in the league. He’s obviously a great basketball coach, one of the greatest of all time. But a great personality. I hate to see him talk about not wanting people to come into this league and coach. He’s done so darn well. He’s reaped all the benefits of it but he doesn’t love it like Doc Rivers does. He acknowledged it as much. I wish he were happier doing it, to tell you the truth."
Popovich was asked how he got into coaching Tuesday, and he said tells players that ask him not to get into the coaching business.
He’s certainly fond of his players and coaches in the business – he and Doc Rivers are good friends. He might not be in love with the gig, but he’s been so successful, having won five NBA titles with the Spurs. He often talks about how the real fun was when he coached at Pomona Pitzer – an NCAA Division III school – for eight years. He did so again Tuesday.
"He has a grasp for the game. A grasp for human nature," Lawler said. "And the first thing he’ll tell you is ‘I adopted David Robinson, then I acquired Tim Duncan with luck in the draft. That will make anybody a pretty good coach. I think he downplays how bright he is and what a great coach he is and thinks he’s just dumb luck. All of the sudden, 20 years have gone by. That’s not true. He’s special."
When Popovich finished his interview Tuesday, he shook out his right leg, looked down the aisle where Lawler was sitting and jokingly asked reporters if there was a different exit he could go out.