SAN ANTONIO, TX – Many teams meet on the morning or afternoon of an important game to go over tactics and to get focused while on the road, but it was a surprise to the Williams men’s soccer team when San Antonio Spurs’ head coach Gregg Popovich walked into the room.
Popovich has won four NBA titles and has over 1,000 wins in his NBA career. The Ephs who were facing the entrance were startled and surprised as Popovich entered while Williams AD Harry Sheehy was speaking to them about the pride and tradition of Williams men’s soccer.
When Sheehy concluded his remarks head coach Mike Russo told the team that Popovich was there to speak to them. The Williams-Popvich connection runs through former Eph men’s basketball coach Curt Tong, who as the AD at Pomona-Pitzer hired Popovich as the Sagehens head coach.
The Tongs and Popovichs have been extremely close even trading trips to and from Williamstown and San Antonio. Popovich later confided after his talk that he and his wife love the Berkshires and likely will settle there or nearby when he retires from coaching.
Moments into his talk to the Ephs Popovich stopped and unzipped his sweat top and said, “Just to show you that I’m a dedicated D3 man," [revealing a Pomona-Pitzer t-shirt]. That shirt will now receive serious competition in Popovich’s closet, as he now owns a purple Williams t-shirt.
“Division 3 is where it’s at, the NBA is …., my heart is at Pomona-Pitzer,” noted Popovich.
“We always have one day each year where it is cold, so I apologize for this weather,” continued Popovich. “It’s usually only one day, tomorrow it could be beautiful again.”
“The most important thing I can tell you about today’s game is that is not about you individually,” Popovich stated. “This game is not going to be won or lost in the first five minutes, so if you make a bad play focus on the next play. Help and support each other – it’s about you collectively and competing your ass off.”
“No matter what happens, don’t think about yourself, think about the team,” Popovich said. “Play the game, listen to your coach and execute your system. The purity of the game is the competition.”
“It’s a thrill to talk to you, just remember to compete your ass off,” Popovich said, “don’t sit back, go out and compete. Good luck.”