Marc Stein: Gregg Popovich

The five best Pop-isms

June, 9, 2014
Jun 9
2:09
PM ET
MIAMI -- A travel day in the NBA Finals delivers at least one indisputable downside.

No Podium Pop.

No cracks from Gregg Popovich about facetiously telling the air-conditioning staff to go home ... or how much he hates 3-point shots ... or how he's constantly telling his team that it better move the ball "or you die."

For the growing legions of NBA fans who apply drop-everything-you're-doing priority to the prospect of a Pop interview, whether he's formally seated at a microphone or grudgingly fielding Doris Burke's NBA-mandated two questions between quarters, travel days like Monday are a little bit empty. That's because both teams in the NBA Finals are granted a day off from media responsibilities when the masses working the Finals in various capacities have to switch cities.

Yet we are here, on SLL, to fill the void. Or at least try.

As an outtake from our pre-NBA Finals primer on the Gregg Popovich/Tim Duncan partnership -- as well as last June's look at the dynamic between the famously crusty coach and his pals from the world of sideline reporting -- we offer up one man’s list of the best Pop Expressions after attending his one-of-a-kind press gatherings for the past 17 years.

My top five from the Pop Glossary:

Gregg PoppovichGarrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
1. "Geez O' Whiz, guys"

Pop's go-to expression of exasperation at media availabilities, which never gets old because every reporter in the room can see on his face that what he's thinking inside is nowhere near that family-friendly.

Gregg Popovich Pedro Portal/El Nuevo Herald/Getty Images
2. "Corporate knowledge"

Pop's synonym for experience with the Spurs' system, processes, expectations, taboos and standards. "Corporate knowledge," in short, is the catch-all phrase to sum up San Antonio's mysterious intellectual property.

Gregg PopovichAP Photo/Eric Gay
3. "Appropriate fear"

Pop's belief that respecting your opponent and even fearing them a little -- just enough to be highly motivated as opposed to being outright scared -- is the best mindset to take into any playoff game. "We've talked about appropriate fear for 18 years," Popovich said during the 2013 Finals against Miami.

Gregg Popovich and Tony ParkerKevin C. Cox/Getty Images
4. "Good to great"

Pop's constant harping on his players to look for someone who is open for a great shot even if you have what you think is a good shot. (Another worthy nominee here is Pop's habit of saying O's and X's instead of X's and O's like everyone else, which he dropped in his pregame news conference before Game 6 of the Western Conference finals.)

Gregg PopovichAndrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
5. "You're all rubes"

I could have easily focused here on Pop's unforgettable "I want some nasty" plea caught by the TNT cameras during a timeout in the 2012 Western Conference finals. But the one-off eruption I look back on with even greater fondness isn't all over YouTube. During a roast for Don Nelson in Dallas after his former boss in Golden State insisted he was retiring from coaching, Pop lit into the audience, blasting everyone in the room as "rubes" for going to all the trouble of throwing a party and actually believing his old scheming pal Nellie was really done with the game. Nelson, sure enough, was back with the Warriors for a second stint on their bench within a year.

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