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Gregg Popovich has a few lessons for football coaches

Gregg Popovich has never coached football a day in his life. But the four-time NBA champion and future Basketball Hall of Famer has an encyclopedia of knowledge that every football coach in America can learn from. 

With a nucleus that has been together more than a decade now, Popovich's San Antonio Spurs are perhaps the most well-oiled machine in all of sports. When things get humming, the Spurs' offense turns into a symphony of perfectly-timed passes and wide-open shots. But that's the thing about sports, it doesn't always work out that way. Even a team with three future Hall of Famers on the court can bog down and look like the worst team in the NBA for a possession or six. 

Speaking before the his team's 122-101 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday, Popovich delved into his psychological vault and explained how he motivated and challenged his team on a nightly basis. It's a lesson on the core of coaching from one of the best to ever strap on a whistle.

On how he gets his players to take ownership of their offense: "A lot depends on the competitiveness and the character of the player. Often times, I’ll appeal to that. Like, I can’t make every decision for you. I don’t have 14 timeouts. You guys got to get together and talk. You guys might see a mismatch that I don’t see. You guys need to communicate constantly — talk, talk, talk to each other about what’s going on on the court."

On encouraging communication amongst his players: “I think that communication thing really helps them. It engenders a feeling that they can actually be in charge. I think competitive character people don’t want to be manipulated constantly to do what one individual wants them to do. It’s a great feeling when players get together and do things as a group. Whatever can be done to empower those people."

On what he says when the team isn't playing well: "Sometimes in timeouts I’ll say, ‘I’ve got nothing for you. What do you want me to do? We just turned it over six times. Everybody’s holding the ball. What else do you want me to do here? Figure it out.’ And I’ll get up and walk away. Because it’s true. There’s nothing else I can do for them. I can give them some bulls—, and act like I’m a coach or something, but it’s on them.

On creating an environment where players take ownership of the team: “If they’re holding the ball, they’re holding the ball. I certainly didn’t tell them to hold the ball. Just like, if they make five in a row, I didn’t do that. If they get a great rebound, I didn’t do that. It’s a players’ game and they’ve got to perform. The better you can get that across, the more they take over and the more smoothly it runs.

“Then you interject here or there. You call a play during the game at some point or make a substitution, that kind of thing that helps the team win. But they basically have to take charge or you never get to the top of the mountain.”