Kansas coach Bill Self issued a thank you to San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich on Tuesday.
“What Pop and the Spurs have done will make it much easier for college coaches to coach,” Self said during the Big 12’s summer teleconference. “Listen to the timeouts, ‘Ball can’t stick, ball can’t stick.’ Those are the exact same words that coaches all across America and certainly we have used daily — ball movement, body movement.
“I think this will certainly help re-emphasize what coaches are selling at all levels, which I think will be great for our game.”
Self’s words certainly carry plenty of weight on their own, but Big 12 coaches know plenty of their players play with an eye toward the NBA, and seeing a team win with the level of ball movement and unselfishness that the Spurs had helps reinforce coaching points.
Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith has already noticed a difference — not in his team, but in even younger players.
Smith and the Red Raiders have hosted a youth camp this week.
“I can see with the campers how — because we teach ball movement, passing game, motion offense, share the ball, pass and cut — I’ve seen a real difference in the young kids,” Smith said. “And I hope our players will appreciate it also. I think it will help coaches in the future at the college level and at the high school level watching the Spurs play.
“They epitomize how the game should be played.”
Self got an up-close view of the Spurs during the NBA Finals, watching Sunday’s series-clinching Game 5 with close friend R.C. Buford, San Antonio’s general manager.
“I’m happy for him obviously because we’ve been close for so many years but just happy for that entire organization,” Self said. “I don’t think we’ve seen very many NBA teams in recent memory that I can remember that would actually play at that level or was a better team.”
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins noted a moment in the series when Manu Ginobili was waiting at the bench to check in but was recalled by Popovich.
“He came back and he didn’t pout and sulk or feel sorry for himself,” Huggins said. “He was cheering his teammates on and of course knew he was going to get back in the game at the right time and they were doing it for the good of the team.
“I think that’s all of our hopes is that we continue to foster an attitude that it’s team first. I think we’ve all had teams where that was the case and we’ve all had teams where that wasn’t the case. It’s certainly a whole lot more fun to coach, a whole lot more fun to play and quite frankly a whole lot more fun to watch whenever people do play the game the right way.”