In life, it’s easier to fail than it is to succeed. In sports, it’s easier to lose than it is to win. You have to have talent, skills, chemistry, motivation and willing to put the team first. Dominance is not achieved by accident. Consistency doesn’t happen overnight. Gregg Popovich and Bill Belichick have set the bar in their respective sports for almost the past 2 decades.
There are plenty of similarities between the two in my eyes. Both have won 5 championships as head coaches (Popovich: 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2014. Belichick: 2002, 2004, 2005, 2015, 2017). Each coach has had a transcending and iconic player during their championship runs (Popovich: Tim Duncan. Belichick: Tom Brady). Both coaches have established a culture to where it’s about the name on the front of the jersey instead of the back. When it comes to the media, both of them have had unique responses to questions asked.
Even with the success, both have had their share of scrutiny. Popovich has been criticized for being “short” with his answers to questions about basketball. However, he’s opinionated about questions outside of the sport, like politics and social issues. Personally, I don’t have a problem with it because life is bigger than the NBA, but I understand the frustration of the media at times. Belichick and the New England Patriots were under fire for “Spygate” and “Deflategate”. Spygate occurred in 2007 when the team was caught filming the New York Jets play-call signals. Deflategate happened in 2015 against the Indianapolis Colts during the AFC Championship game where the Patriots were accused of having slightly underinflated footballs.
FOXBOROUGH, MA – JUNE 4: Head coach Bill Belichick, of the New England Patriots, speaks to the media after organized team activities at Gillette Stadium on June 4, 2015 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
What I do appreciate the most about both coaches is their consistency over the years. Since the NBA lockout shortened-season in 1999, the San Antonio Spurs have won a least 50 games each season and are on pace to extend the streak this season. The Spurs have been able to demonstrate their winning culture with different players over the years. It started with the “Twin Tower” era with David Robinson and Tim Duncan. Then it changed to the Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili era. Now Kawhi Leonard is the face of the franchise with LaMarcus Aldridge next to him. The common denominator has been Gregg Popovich and his ability to adjust his coaching with the personnel around him.
Since becoming the head coach in 2000 for the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick has won 15 division titles and has won at least 10 games since 2003. Like the San Antonio Spurs, the Patriots have been able to continue their winning culture by plugging in players around Tom Brady that fits the system. Brady went from having Troy Brown as his favorite target to Deion Branch, Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, and Julian Edelman.
When you set the bar for excellence, you eventually become the bar. Gregg Popovich and Bill Belichick have done just that. With respect to Red Auerbach, Phil Jackson, and Pat Riley, I believe Gregg Popovich is the greatest coach in NBA history. I firmly believe the same for Bill Belichick in the NFL. You don’t have to be a fan of either, but you have to respect their greatness to keep this longevity of excellence up for almost 20 years.