Ahmad Rashad thought Gregg Popovich’s Hall of Fame speech was ending, but the Spurs coach had other ideas.
After talking for around 20 minutes, Popovich transitioned into the second reason why “I’m standing here,” which centered around one word: “Duh.”
And when he left the microphone and started shaking hands with his former Spurs players on stage, Rashad — a former wide receiver and current sportscaster and host — appeared from the background while music played at the Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony.
It appeared Popovich’s speech had concluded.
But Popovich had more to say.
“I’ve been waiting for this a long time,” Popovich said after waving Rashad away from the stage and returning to the microphone. “I’m not done. I didn’t say, ‘Duh’ was the end. I just said there’s one word to describe why I’m here, and that’s, ‘Duh,’ those guys.”
Then, Popovich proceeded to spend the next five minutes describing his relationships with Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, David Robinson and Manu Ginobili, who all sat beside him on the stage in Springfield, Mass.
He spoke about the need to be genuine as a coach, even with the pressure to win alongside talent, since the players have great “bulls–t antennae” — and they’d easily gauge if Popovich wasn’t being himself.
Popovich added that he had an agreement with Robinson that if he didn’t “take the name of the Lord in vain,” the star center would tolerate the coach.
With Parker, Popovich wanted perfection — which was difficult for the 19-year-old point guard when he arrived in San Antonio — and “would be in handcuffs” if he coached a player the same way today he joked.
Popovich just wanted some acknowledgement from Duncan at times, some form of “self-satisfaction” or nodding of the head to make Popovich think his coaching resonated with the star, he joked as Duncan nodded his head on the stage.
And Popovich’s relationship with Ginobili blossomed once he learned “how to zip it and just let him play.”
“Everybody knows the Os and Xs,” Popovich said. “It’s not brain science. Like, when’s the last time you had a new pick-and-roll play. It’s all the same damn stuff. Jerry Sloan ran the same play 77 times in a row and nobody could beat Karl (Malone) and John (Stockton), so that’s all baloney. It’s about relationships.”
Popovich, who has won five NBA titles and 1,536 regular season and playoff games, was inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday alongside others such as Parker, Pau Gasol, Dwayne Wade and Becky Harman.
In the upcoming 2023-24 campaign, Popovich, 74, will have the next opportunity to add to his legacy when the Spurs feature No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama — who becomes the latest French star to play under Popovich in San Antonio — and aim for their postseason appearance since 2018-19.