Last Friday, I signed off for the final time on Spurs TV during another blowout win for the Spurs over the Chris Paul-less Hornets. After eight years on the air and 14 total with the organization, I said my goodbye’s and closed the book on my NBA life.
Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich offered a heartfelt sendoff. It lasted 10 minutes and it’s the longest conversation I’ve had with Pop to date (He was ejected in the first quarter of that game, btw). Up to that point, our relationship was all business. He was always fair. He always answered the tough questions. He was always the most intimidating presence in the room. But Friday, for the first time, Pop was my buddy. As we talked about trust and respect and the Brewers (he loves baseball…and Milwaukee) I began thinking about what makes an organization great and what I see building in the Brewers right now. It’s the same thing I witnessed first hand with the Spurs when Pop took reign over the franchise.
Even Gregg Popovich admits there was a little luck. To get David Robinson and Tim Duncan in the draft is a once in a lifetime occasion…twice. Hall of Fame coach John Wooden was right, no matter how you measure coaching or leadership, talent wins games. But assembling WINNING talent starts with a defined, unwavering leader. One that establishes a culture of winning not just with the players, but with the organization and even with the fans. That’s what Pop has done in San Antonio.
I was with the Spurs for all three championships and I was there prior to the titles as well. When the only thing "big league" about the city was its "big league" inferiority complex. But Pop and the Spurs changed all of that. He took talent and demanded success. He put himself, and ownership on the plank by demanding the fans demanded success, too. He only asked that fans welcome players as one of their own and make it so they never want to leave.
Pop made smart basketball decisions and smart civic decisions. Winning does a city like milk does a body…good. Pop knew that. It was not about getting there, it was about staying there. There was a title, then there was a push for a new arena. One that would be loud and intimidating. Then a new practice facility. Because players like cool, state of the art gyms to hideout in. Then two more titles. And the wheel goes ’round. Now, stars want to stay there and free agents want to play there, and there is not a negative comment made to a San Antonian that can’t be rebuked with, "yeah, but my team has three rings!"
I see a lot of Gregg Popovich in Ned Yost. Same drive, same demeanor, same single mindedness about success. I love how Yost scoff’s at the notion of "breaking .500." "We’re here to win the division!" is his response. It is echoed by Doug Melvin, then it’s echoed by Mark Attanassio. Three power brokers putting themselves in the hot seat of expectations. All with defined roles and specific goals for the franchise.
I see a lot of the Spurs in the Brewers. I understand the economic differences between the NBA and Major League Baseball. I certainly understand the optimism in all baseball fans this time of year. But there is a culture of winning brewing in Brewtown. I may be new, but I’ve seen it come true and wouldn’t it be great…to have a new ’82? (apologies to Dr. Seuss)
Have a great week!
An encore from the newest Brewer fan…he wrote it, he plays it, he sings it…PG
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