Gregg Popovich gave a rare 25-minute long interview to KNBR's Mr. T and Ratto podcast recently. During the interview, he addressed several topics, including how the culture of locker rooms is changing.
With Becky Hammon becoming the first woman to coach (and lead her team to a title) in Summer League, the possibility of a woman eventually becoming an NBA head coach is on everyone's mind. Popovich not only addressed that issue, but also how he thinks a team would deal with an openly gay player.
As always, he was eloquent and decisive in his opinions.
On hiring Becky Hammon
"It became huge when we hired her. And now it's even bigger, because of the Summer League situation. But we didn't even think about that stuff. I hired her because she was in my coaches' meetings for a whole year because she was injured. And she's got opinions and solid notions about basketball.
"Obviously she was a great player. As a point guard, she's a leader, she's fiery, she's got high intelligence. Our guys just respect the heck out of her and so she's out on the court coaching with us, she's running drills. So that's why we made her a full-time person and that's why we gave her the opportunity to coach in the Summer League.
"I don't even look at it as 'she's the first female that and the other.' She's a coach. And she's good at it. Some people thought this was some sort of gimmick, 'they are just trying to be cool' or whatever. I'm glad she's there. I respect her opinion. I enjoy the give-and-take with her."
On a woman coaching an NBA team
"It's a societal sort of thing. In America, we are great at sticking our heads in the sand and being behind the rest of the world in a whole lot of areas. We think we are this big democratic, fair place. But you look at our world now, whether it's gender-wise or racially or religiously, there's all kinds of stuff that is not the way it's supposed to be.
"I think a female coaching a team these days has a lot to do with the people on the teams maturing as individuals, as members of a society understanding that it's not about any of those things. It's about talent. It's about respect. People like Becky over time will gain respect and people will understand that this is possible. It can happen. It's like women getting the vote. Think about how long that took before change was made.
"But I think since 2000 changes have been pretty damn lacking in a lot of ways. I think people are fed up with it, injustice, and people not respecting other people's space and who they are. I think it's a step in the right direction."
On an openly gay player being on a team
"It's going to happen, and when it does it's going to be like a two-way street. One, the education will have to continue. You'll have to educate your other players because some of them might not be as societal-wise mature and maybe haven't grown enough. So you've got to continue to educate.
"The other half of it is, on leadership's part you gotta say 'figure it out, Jack.' I mean, you guys, figure it out. You are going to have to handle it. This is the way it is. It's a dual approach I think. Some of it's got to be -- not forced, but matter-of-factly stated that this is the world. Grow up, mature, widen your horizons. And secondly, be loving enough to continue to educate some of those that maybe never had an opportunity to change their mindset."
It's not surprising to hear Popovich addressing these issues head on. After all, the Spurs are one of the most progressive franchises in all of sports. It's still always interesting to hear from people with the power to affect change.
Popovich is clearly optimistic about the progress being made in these social issues, but feels like more is needed. As someone who can help promote that progress, it's encouraging to hear he feels that way.