For the permanent record, my first-ever question to Pop was about what this training camp's "theme" would be, citing past seasons where the emphasis was on running more or getting off to a better start in the season or on improving the defense. Pop replied:
"Well, you all might have said we had a theme and made that up, but I never did, so just to be clear, we've never had any goals whatsoever in the sense of winning ‘X' number of games or this year's our year to win a championship. We've never talked about it, we've never known what's going to happen at the end of the year or said this is what we want to happen. All we've said is we want to be the best team we can be at playoff time and that starts with the very first practice and it's a building-block sort of thing. And then we hope to be healthy and fresh at playoff time. Those are the only goals we've had every single year, including last year, and it'll be no different this year."
Right out of the gate with a semi-Popping. Ah, well.
But Pop was just getting warmed up. When asked to confirm that Boris Diaw would be meeting the team in Germany, Pop answered "Boris is having pina colada somewhere right now. We have a pool that when you guess his weight you have to start at 275 (pounds). You can't go below that, you have to go above it."
Of course, he then went on to give numerous compliments to Diaw.
On the topic of if he's expecting new assistant coach Ettore Messina to offer some tweaks to the playbook, Pop revealed that "He already has. In our preparation for the season he's seen the way we do things and we do this and we do that and he's said ‘Have you thought about this?' and I already like some of the suggestions that he's made that we'll change."
After a few beats, Pop turned to Mike Monroe, who had asked the question, and teased, "I've taken out-of-bounds plays from you, why wouldn't I listen to him?"
I've only been to two Spurs media gatherings already, but it's impossible to miss how precise and meticulous the organization is, scrutinizing every last detail. They're is ultra-protective of their privacy, to the point that they don't even publicly list the address of their practice facility. It's easy enough to figure out, but they still don't like to put that information out there.
The practices are almost always closed off to the media, even during training camp. It's easy to hear the furious squeaking of sneakers and the usual hollering and shouting, but we're not permitted to see so much as a dribble. Every so often a coach or some staffer will have to use the restroom though, so they have to open the practice door to come into the media room. Every single time, whoever opened the door did so very deliberately, just a crack enough to allow themselves to slip inside and then quickly making sure to close it behind them so no one could see anything going on inside the gym. I don't know if everyone on staff has been explicitly drilled or instructed to do this, but it wouldn't surprise me at all.
These are just ancillary things of course. The best example of the Spurs way from day two of camp came in the form of Gregg Popovich's explanation explaining the impetus and process of the team hiring new people for their medical/training staff in Phil Coles, as their director of medical services, Marilyn Adams as the director of rehabilitation. and Xavi Schelling as their applied sports scientist. The team didn't exactly use "Craigslist" to make these hires, but I should really let Pop explain it..
We've added three new people on that side of the program and it's just an effort to do an even better job for the players as far as preventative procedures and concerns, with people who are really hands on physiotherapy-wise, who have done it in big-time situations and big-time programs overseas. It's really the way of the future. These guys are very valuable and we wanted to make sure we had the best character in the three people we added we think is a big step up in that part of the program. R.C. [Buford] and Sean Marks and Scott Layden have worked for the last two-to-three-and-a-half years on interviewing people and looking at programs all over the world to try and find the exact persons that we might want to be in that role, so they've done the work for a long time to get to this point, to find the people that we want to hire and get them on board.
It took two-to-three years for them to find the people they wanted. They wouldn't settle for their second or third most-qualified candidate. They wanted these specific people from these specific fields. That's the Spurs for you, in a nutshell.
Also, this being the Spurs it shouldn't be surprising at all to learn that the three specialists hail from Australia, Canada and Spain, respectively.