As most of you know, I have press credentials for a lot of the Spurs home games. Since I'm not trained in journalism and I had no other journalistic training, I had no idea what to expect with access. I had to feel things out. Find out where I was comfortable. Then find some way to use the access to make what I put on PtR better. It hasn't been all that easy.
I have no interest in writing a standard media recap. They are a bit formulaic. They don't excite me. And, most importantly, they are already being done and done well. Jeff McDonald and Mike Monroe will give you a great recap of every Spurs game. However, their recaps are really for people who don't watch the games. We at PtR usually watch the games.
For me, the best part of having press credentials are the pre-game and post-game interviews with Coach Popovich. We are all familiar with his surly get-off-my-lawn responses to Craig Sager. I've been Sagered a couple times myself. You know, that one word answer that lets you know you asked a pretty dumb question. Now, I'm going to give you a chance to ask Pop a question.
This won't be an "ask Pop any dumb question you can think of" thing. This is a "if you can write up a legitimate (and respectful) question, then I will ask it" thing. I'll give you guys a chance both pre and post game for every game I go to. Give me a good question and I'll ask it. If it is pre-game, I will give you his answer in the game thread. If it is post-game, I will give it to you in the recap. Additionally, most post-game questions get video taped and put on the spurs.com site.
Here's what you need to know
Asking Pop a good question is tough. Well, it's tough if the goal is to get a thoughtful response, which is what I am usually after. I don't what to get a canned response and I definitely don't want to get Sagered. If my question is a simple yes or no, then he'll give me a 'yes' or' no'. If it is too open ended, then he'll give me a 'maybe, who knows'.
Both SLAM Online and Bright Side of the Sun have recently done posts about Pop and his press sessions. I talked to P-Stan before the Spurs came to town and told him not to miss the pre-game session. Pre-game Pop is different than post-game Pop. If you ask your questions without any apparent tricks to them, he will usually work with you to get an answer for you. One reporter from Boston asked him "if it took him about 30 games to know what kind of team he has". Pop's answer was great. He started with "I know what kind of team I'll have before the season starts. I'm the coach." Then, he went on to give the reporter a couple answers to different interpretations of his question. "If I think we'll win a championship, then 'No'. You never know." "If that's how long it takes for me to decide on my rotations, then 'Yes, about 30 games'.
Of course, tone is very important. Before games his tone is usually very friendly and joking. Not always, but usually. He views it as a bit of a game as well. I think he does because he knows asking good questions is tough. Especially for the beat writers who have to ask him questions every day. He knows the guys have stories to write. Additonally, your tone as a question asker is important. If you sound accusatory or hostile, he will tend to shut you down.
Lastly, you have to know that Pop is a GREAT guy. No two ways about it. He's sharp. He's charming. He's funny. He'll mess with you. He'll make jokes at your expense. He'll make jokes at his own expense. He'll go off on tangents.
Most importantly, I don't want to piss him off because I want to build a positive relationship instead of a contentious one (not to mention keeping my press credentials). I can't really critique his work. He's a hall of fame coach and I'm not. I can ask him why he decided to do something. But I can't ask it in a way that makes him think I know better. Because I don't. I'm not out to expose Pop. Because I can't. All I want is a view into why he does what he does. In order to get that view, or rather to get the best view, you need a good relationship. That's what I want. The best view I can get.