Kawhi Leonard is unfortunately a presence on the bench a lot this season instead of on the court, but the other people Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has on the bench are people he wants there. First, let’s just say this: NBA teams have a lot of staff. The typical NBA head coach is surrounded by men (almost exclusively men) with clipboards, active eyes, multiple defensive and offensive sets, and lots of big data running around their heads at a frenetic pace. When a coach like Steve Kerr or Gregg Popovich asks a question in the heat of the game (i.e., who’s the opposing team’s worst free throw shooter currently on the floor? who’s the most vulnerable opposing player as far as conditioning late in games?), he gets quick answers from his team of well-prepared assistant coaches.
In the case of Popovich, it’s a particularly good job — being an assistant coach. Because if you’re an assistant coach on the Spurs, you’ve got a very good chance of soon being a head coach somewhere else. Just ask the 76ers Brett Brown, or the Hawks Mike Budenholzer, both of whom were assistants during the Popovich dynasty. The current crew assisting Popovich — during his most challenging season in years — are:
Becky Hammond (a glass-ceiling smasher, Hammond is respected throughout the league. She was also a first class player.)
Ettore Messina (a EuroLeague legend, he’s in his 4th season under Popovich)
Ime Udoka (a former Spurs player and Nigeria native, he’s in his 6th season under Popovich)
James Borrego (went with Jacque Vaughn to Orlando, but came back after the Magic sputtered)
Chip Engelland (season 13 under Popovich for this shooting expert who played at Duke)
Will Hardy (Season 9 under Popovich, with head coaching in his future. Smart guy who played ball at the elite Williams College. )