Hawks’ coach on Popovich: ‘He almost wants you to disagree with him’

They spent years together in San Antonio, but that doesn't mean Gregg Popovich and Mike Budenholzer agreed about everything.

D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty Images

As the gold standard for NBA franchises, there’s a sense that the San Antonio Spurs have exported their ideas to other organizations through the Gregg Popovich coaching tree. It’s an idea that’s perfectly encapsulated by one of the nicknames for the Atlanta Hawks under coach Mike Budenholzer: "Spurs East."

At first glance, it’s a nickname that would seem to make sense. Budenholzer spent years under Popovich in San Antonio, and the organization-wide commitment to being on the same page is very Spurs-esque. But when the Hawks and Spurs faced off in a preseason game last week, Popovich told reporters that it’s not just a one-way street. Budenholzer’s approach to the game influenced the Spurs, too (via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution):

“Bud learned from me,” Popovich said. “I learned as much from Bud as he learned from me. We agree on a lot of things but there are some other things we’ve argued about over the years. He’s going to do it his way. His system will be the Hawks’ system. It’s not the Spurs. […]

“One of the great things about working for Pop, not just me but everybody, is he wants you to give your opinions,” Budenholzer said. “He almost wants you to disagree with him. It’s part of the whole process. I participated and engaged well.”

It was part of the process Popovich used in San Antonio — members of the organization were encouraged to participate in the decision-making process and put their imprint on the team. And that’s something Budenholzer has done in Atlanta. The Hawks are his team, through and through.

MORE NEWS: Want stories delivered to you? Sign up for our NBA newsletters.