Rumors of a good thing: Gregg Popovich and Domingo Montoya
There are moments when inspiration strikes you and you make a connection, however delicate and insubstantial, between two seemingly dissimilar things. You run away with that idea as far as it would take you, except it all ends up turning into one convoluted mess inside your head. I had such an epiphany yesterday, while reading William Goldman's fantastic book, The Princess Bride, on the very day that Pop won the COY award.
You can decide how much of a mess it is.
[Editor's note: Yes, for those who didn't know, The Princess Bride, was a book long before it was a movie. And it's a spectacular book at that. -jrw]
During the backstory of Inigo's character, there is a scene when Yeste, a famous sword maker from Madrid, visits his good friend to ask a favor of him. Yeste was known around the world to make the finest swords, but whenever a request came in that even Yeste could not create, he’d privately go to a man there were rumors about; a master swordmaker who had no equal: Domingo Montoya. One day, Yeste asked Domingo to make a sword for an Italian noble, with jewels at the handle spelling out the name of his mistress.
Domingo’s response was an unflinching "No."
After futile attempts to change Domingo’s mind, Yeste finally asks him why.
And here is Domingo’s droll, acerbic reply:
"Why? My fat friend asks me why? He sits there on his world-class ass and has the nerve to ask me why? Yeste. Come to me sometime with a challenge. Once, just once, ride up and say, ‘Domingo, I need a sword for an eighty-year-old man to fight a duel,’ and I would embrace you and cry ‘Yes!’ Because to make a sword for an eighty-year-old man to survive a duel, that would be something. Because the sword would have to be strong enough to win, yet light enough not to tire his weary arm. I would have to use my all to perhaps find an unknown metal, strong but very light, or devise a different formula for a known one, mix some bronze with some iron and some air in a way ignored for a thousand years. I would kiss your smelly feet for an opportunity like that, fat Yeste. But to make a stupid sword with stupid jewels in the form of stupid initials so some stupid Italian can thrill his stupid mistress, no. That I will not do."
Pop has, throughout the years, earned a reputation for being the anti-thesis to the glitz and glamour of the NBA. There are many things you can accuse him of, but doing things just for show is not one of them. Pop is capable of many things, but he does not suffer fools. If his team now relies more heavily on offense, if it runs more, plays at a faster pace, it is never out of sheer desire to please the audience; it is born of necessity. He has a clear goal in mind: to fashion the best weapon, suited for the needs and peculiarities of the time, and go to war with victory in mind.
And so it is not surprising that he has outshone all other head coaches in the league in this lockout-shortened season. To navigate through a ridiculous 66-game regular season with a motley crew of veterans and neophytes, not one year removed from an embarrassing first-round loss, to suffer the absence of one of the machine’s vital cogs for half that time, and still come out the other side of the Fire Swamp looking fresh as a daisy, requires nothing short of genius. The way Pop handled his rotations and deftly adjusted his game plan to meet the idiosyncratic needs of a shortened season—that is the work of an artist. Pop saw a six-fingered man and created a sword strong enough to win, but light enough not to tire his arm.
Time will tell whether he has created the perfect weapon. But one thing I already know. Pop is the man of the rumors.