Utah Jazz notebook: Spurs' Popovich holds court in S.L.

Published: Friday, Dec. 14 2012 9:43 a.m. MST

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, left, argues a call during the second quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 86-84. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Eric Gay, ASSOCIATED PRESS

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PHOENIX — Gregg Popovich is a name that evokes many emotions from Utah Jazz fans.

Some look upon him with admiration and respect, while others carry feelings of disdain or envy for the coach who's won four NBA championships.

Wednesday's visit to Salt Lake City added to the reputation of Popovich being both a brilliant basketball mind and a brutally honest man.

An example of the latter happened in a pregame interview when the Spurs coach was asked by a Utah reporter to elaborate on the notion that San Antonio plays basketball "the right way."

Popovich delved into his bully mode and bristled at the reporter — and that was before his team lost 99-96 to the Jazz.

"I hate that question. It's such a trite question," he said. "The answer's even more trite, so I'm just going to beg off. Ask somebody smarter."

The oft-crusty coach was softer at times, even a bit humorous, when speaking about subjects close to many Jazz fans' hearts.

On possibly seeing Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan, a friend he greatly respects, at Wednesday's game:

"I'm tired of seeing him," he said, jokingly. "I just saw him. He came down to our camp (in October). We spent a few days and broke bread. He came to our practices.

"We just saw he and also Coach (Frank) Layden in San Antonio (last week). It was great to see them," Pop continued. "They came to practice and Coach Layden held court. It was great fun. Whenever I see people like that, it's always a thrill. That's what the league is really all about — those guys that have been here for so long and done it for so many years. Those are great people."

On whether or not he was glad he wouldn't have to coach against John Stockton on 12/12/12:

"It was fun watching him. If he was playing, I'd just be staring at him — he and Karl (Malone). I wouldn't even notice anything else."

On the Jazz being improved since the Spurs beat them 110-100 in San Antonio on Nov. 3 (a pregame question, mind you):

"They've been together a little bit longer now. A little be bit healthier, they understand the system more," he said. "They're playing together really well. Their pace is great. They're real aggressive on both ends of the court. They're just doing a great job."

On his organization's former assistant general manager, Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey:

"Dennis … he's got great experience. He's spent a lot of time in other places. I'm sure he's picked up things wherever he's been, but he's a guy of great depth as far as knowledge of the game goes," said Popovich, who worked with Lindsey for five years. "He's got a really great demeanor for the job, and I know that he'll do a great job. Being with Kevin (O'Connor) all year long, he'll be great — really get acclimated into the Utah family and that kind of thing. It's a real good situation in that regard, management-wise."

On former Jazz assistant coach Scott Layden, a 25-year Utah employee, taking Lindsey's old job in San Antonio:

"We did this little trade," he joked. "He's somebody that we've respected for many, many years. He's worked in several capacities as we all know, and like Dennis has a feel for the game, has a love of the game, has a great work ethic. Hopefully, he's starting to feel comfortable in San Antonio just like hopefully Dennis is starting to feel comfortable in Utah."

On Sloan ever coaching again:

"I don't know," he said. "I really don't know."

Somebody smarter — or at least more knowledgeable on that subject — might have to answer that one, too.

email: jody@desnews.com

Twitter: DJJazzyJody

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