In late November, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich sat down with Cornel West to conduct a town hall meeting at Sam Houston High School in San Antonio, Texas. It featured the duo answering more than two hours worth of questions about social issues from 350 teenagers. The Nation's Dave Zirin was a moderator for the forum, and he provided details from it in an article that was published on Monday.
Popovich was the one who came up with the idea to host the event, and he explained his reasoning behind why he organized the meeting—which included players and coaches from the Spurs—in the middle of the current NBA season. "I wanted to show you, the students at Sam Houston [High School], that there are people in your community who care," he said, "and we understand that there are things that have to be fixed and we are willing to listen and participate with you in making that happen."
Despite the focus on non-sports stuff, it was inevitable that a basketball question would come up. And when he was asked by one student in attendance if the Spurs will win a championship this season, Pop gave a pretty great answer. Here was his response:
"Win the championship? I don’t know, but it’s not a priority in my life. I’d be much happier if I knew that my players were going to make society better, who had good families and who took care of the people around them. I’d get more satisfaction out of that than a title. I would love to win another championship and we’ll work our butts off to try and do that. But we have to want more than success in our jobs. That’s why we’re here. We’re here so you’ll understand that you can overcome obstacles by being prepared and if you educate the hell out of yourself, if you become respectful, disciplined people in this world, you can fight anything. If you join with each other and you believe in yourself and each other, that’s what matters. That’s what we want to relay to you all: that we believe that about you or we wouldn’t be here."
West was reportedly touched by that answer and expounded on it by praising the coach's character. "This is what makes brother Popovich, not just a great coach, but a great human being," he said. "There are not that many coaches who would say what he just said. He wants to win a championship, but as a human being, he wants to make sure that all the young people live lives that matter."
The longtime NBA coach also left the kids with lots of optimism with some strong parting words. "Hopefully, you all believe in your soul that there are many people who care about you, love you, and know that you have tremendous value," he said. "Don’t let anybody take that away from you because the more you believe that about yourselves, the more you can handle whatever comes your way."
Damn. Guess Pop is a lot less prickly when you're not asking him questions on the sideline or at a press conference.