Recently I ended up on a basketball blog (probably via something someone re-tweeted on Twitter) by the name of Hoop Thoughts, written by current Texas A&M Assistant Women’s basketball coach Bob Starkey. The blog is updated several times a month and is chock-full of posts spreading to its readers the wisdom and insight of basketball coaches and players of all kinds.
What specifically caught my eye on Twitter was a link to a Starkey blog post in which Starkey lists tons of sage quotes uttered throughout the years by San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. I started to read through these Popovich quotes and came across some that very much hit home, or rather, currently remind me of the less than sparkling situation and culture of our favorite NBA team and some of its players.
And, maybe a few of these quotes are nothing more and nothing less than frankly great reminders of what teams and athletes should strive towards and just how long the road is that the Pistons have to travel to become anything potentially significant and worthwhile.
Let’s have at it:
On Character: (17-23 were taken from the book “Forces of Character.” By Chad Hennings)
18. “Work ethic is obvious to all of us. We do that through our scouting. For potential draft picks, we go to high school practices and to college practices to see how a player reacts to coaches and teammates. The phrase that we use is seeing whether people have “gotten over themselves.”
When there’s a guy who talks about himself all day long, you start to get the sense that he doesn’t listen real well. If you’re interviewing him and before you ever get anything out of your mouth he’s speaking, you know he hasn’t really evaluated what you’ve said. For those people, we think, Has this person gotten over himself? If he has then he’s going to accept parameters. He’s going to accept the role; he’s going to accept one night when he doesn’t play much. I think it tells me a lot.”
This is why the Spurs organization, led in big part by the sound and consistent principles of Gregg Popovich, is often on top or close to it. Not only do they scout for talent, but they scout for maturity and selflessness. In the above quote it should be clear that I’m highlighting those words because certain Pistons might not have gotten over themselves quite yet.
I may be off, but when I think back to when I see the Pistons franchise center often cop an attitude after he’s pulled in crucial moments of the game (...we know why), I have to believe he’s not gotten over himself, particularly his basketball-self. The player has made it all about him.
There’s two points here: the player must deal with the situation at hand and take it for what it’s worth right then and there. There’s nothing he can do. The coach does it for a good reason and it’s right for the team. The player simply needs to not cop an attitude for everyone to see. He must accept the fact and do it professionally.
The other point is that the player can directly impact whether the coach pulls him out of the game in late game situations by improving his free throw shooting to a respectable level, so to instill confidence in his coach. In either case, so far, the player is likely still full of himself - and won’t listen or just can’t.
As for hero ball and selfish play that a certain point guard has a reputation for (even though he often says the right things in admitting fault), you have to wonder if he’s ready to put the team first. Is it all about him, too?
20. “The other thing I’ll do in practice on a regular basis when we run drills is I’ll purposely get on the big boys the most. Duncan, Parker, and Manu Ginobili will catch more hell from me than anybody else out there. You know the obvious effect of that. If you do that and they respond in the right way, everyone else follows suit. The worst thing you can do is let it go when someone has been egregious in some sort of way. The young kids see that and you lose respect and the fiber of your team gets frayed a bit. I think it has to be that way. They have to be willing to set that example and take that hit so everybody else will fall in line. It’s a big thing for us and that’s how we do it.
All I can say is that I hope Detroit’s “best” players are catching the most hell from the coaching staff. It hasn’t been apparent that any of that has occurred under the Stan Van Gundy regime.
21. “I go to bed every night and I don’t worry about anybody on my team. I don’t come to work in the morning and say, “Ah, jeez, I’m going to have to clean this mess up.” It doesn’t happen. Everybody else spends half their time cleaning up everything or trying to convince themselves that this guy and that guy get along and blah blah blah. When people ask me how I do it, I just think it’s total logic. You don’t have to be smart. I realize it’s not easy but a lot of guys don’t get it. When they have problems I say, “You did it to yourself.” There are no problems if a team does the work ahead of time and uses character as a “true” component of selection.”
It’s not an easy question to admit having the need to ask. Have the Detroit Pistons already done themselves in? Is the damage too serious? Are too many lost causes here?
Following a loss:
5. "If you lose, you were less aggressive, and you didn't have the effort; that's all baloney. That's psycho-babble. You don't think Patty Mills and those guys played hard? You don't think Timmy tried to play hard? That's silly. They played better than we did. It's got nothing to do with effort."
After what Pistons fans witnessed towards the end of last season, I’ll go ahead and stick my head out and say for all of us that we hope at some point not too far off Stan Van Gundy can truthfully and effortlessly say that a team he coaches in Detroit always plays hard and only got beat because the other team played better. It’d be damn wonderful.
Are the Detroit Pistons just wasting their time with building their team around certain players? Or, am I being too pessimistic at this point in time?