The San Antonio Spurs lost to Chicago Bulls, 95-91, on Thursday night. It was their first loss in 14 road games. Coach Gregg Popovich — because he is forced to — answered a post-game question about his inability to get his team mentally prepared.
And surprise, he wasn’t having it.
“I don’t remember playing tonight,” Popovich said. “No Knute Rockne speeches. It’s your job. If you’re a plumber and you don’t do your job, you don’t get any work,” Popovich said. “I don’t think a plumber needs a pep talk. A doctor botches operations, and he’s not a doctor anymore. If you’re a basketball player, you come ready. It’s called maturity. It’s your job.”
While it’s true that professional basketball players should give an honest effort every night, it’s worth pointing out that all jobs are different. Like, when a plumber makes a mistake, someone’s house gets flooded. When a doctor makes a mistake, someone can die. When Manu Ginobili goes 0-for-9 from the floor as he did last night, the consequence is the Spurs lose their fifth game of the year.
Popovich’s comments dismissing his role as a motivator actually serve as motivation to his team. He’s challenging their maturity and demanding they hold themselves accountable. Whatever you think of his personality, his ability to remain in character while helping his team is an impressive balancing act. He’s a mental chess player, not a mental checkers player.