Iconic figure of the NBA, Gregg Popovich has many legendary stories to his credit. One of them, however, is staggering, since it involves the mythical coach’s recourse to a private detective to… track down one of his own players. We explain to you.
Ask anyone for his list of the greatest coaches in history, and Gregg Popovich’s name won’t take long to come up. It must be said that with 5 rings on his finger, 3 Coach of the Year distinctions, and the status of a living legend in San Antonio, Pop no longer has much to prove to anyone or anything. If NBA fans have always been used to seeing him sitting on the Spurs bench, fewer are those who know that before that, the tactician held a position as an assistant and then as a GM within the Texas franchise. .
It was on this occasion, at the end of the 1980s, that Popovich, whose character was already strong, used an unorthodox technique to control a player… and kick him out. His identity ? Vernon Maxwell, future double NBA champion with the Rockets
Ruthless pop: « Pack your bags, I’ll transfer you »
Passing by the microphone of Gilbert Arenas in the No Chill PodcastMaxwell told the story bluntly:
I couldn’t do what he asked of me. I’m from Florida, there I landed in San Antonio and guys were picking on me everywhere I went, so I started fighting and knocking them out in the street. So Pop said to me, “Nightclubs are over. The next time you go, I’ll come and get you by the skin of your buttocks”.
That same evening, six hours later, I was at the bar of a nightclub. Pop called me the next day, early in the morning. He said to me: “Hey, come to the room, I want to see you”. I go there, and he says to me: “I told you”. It turns out that he had hired a private detective to follow me the day before. I was very far from imagining that. He said to me: “You can start packing your bags, I’m trying to find a team that wants you”. He called me back a little later and said, « You’re going to Houston. » And that’s how I left Spurs.
If the anecdote may surprise or even shock at first sight, it should be known that this technique is ultimately quite widespread in the NBA. The top draft prospects are for example subject, often without knowing it, to checks on their entourage and their habits on the part of private detectives. When he asked for his Rockets trade a few years ago, James Harden had also been followed in this way by a team that wanted to recruit him.
For his part, Maxwell today prefers to laugh at this story. A hothead upon his arrival in the league, the fullback went on to experience other incidents of behavior during his career, including a fight with Gary Payton when they were on the same team, and an arrest by the police in possession of drugs. Not really the kind of player that Gregg Popovich loves, we agree.
Pop isn’t kidding, and if it takes hiring a private detective to catch a lying player in the act, then bingo. One more cult anecdote to add to the collection of the mythical tactician!