CLEVELAND — Twenty-one seasons of coaching the Spurs has given Gregg Popovich a wealth of experience in dealing with the media. So much, in fact, that he believes newly sworn-in President Donald Trump can learn a thing or two from him.
“I want to be totally vanilla, whether someone says something great or something bad (about me),” Popovich said before the Spurs and Cavaliers met Saturday night. “You can’t let that affect you. We have somebody in office right now who should take that lesson.”
Popovich went on to devote nearly half of his 14-minute media session describing his disdain for Trump, who was inaugurated Friday.
On Saturday, more than 1 million people rallied at women’s marches in Washington, D.C., and cities across the world in protest of the new president.
Similar to critical comments he made about Trump when he was elected in November, Popovich again took aim at how Trump has handled himself with the American people.
“The march today was great,” Popovich said. “That message is important and it could have been a whole lot of groups marching. And somebody said on TV, ‘What’s their message?’ Well, their message is obvious. That’s, our president comes in with the lowest (approval) rating of anybody who ever came into the office. And there’s a majority of people out there, since Hillary (Clinton) won the popular vote, that don’t buy his act. And I just wish that he was more — had the ability to be more — mature enough to do something that really is inclusive rather than just talking and saying, ‘I’m going to include everybody.’
“He could talk to the groups that he disrespected and maligned during the primary and really make somebody believe it. But so far, we’ve got (to) a point where you really can’t believe anything that comes out of his mouth. You really can’t.”
On Saturday, one of Trump’s first acts since he was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States was visiting CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Popovich was critical of what the president did with the opportunity.
“With the CIA today, instead of honoring the 117 people behind him where he was speaking, he talked about the size of the crowd,” Popovich said. “That’s worrisome. That’s worrisome. I’d just feel better if somebody was in that position that showed the maturity and psychological and emotional level of somebody that was his age. It’s dangerous and it doesn’t do us any good. I hope he does a great job but there’s a difference between respecting the office of the presidency and who occupies it. And that respect has to be earned. But it’s hard to be respectful of someone when we all have kids and we’re watching him be misogynistic and xenophobic and racist and make fun of handicapped people.”
Popovich expressed even greater dismay in some of Trump’s presidential appointees.
“What really bothers me are the people around him,” Popovich said. “The Sean Spicers, the Kellyanne Conways, the Reince Priebuses that know who he is and actually have the cynical approach and disingenuous attitude to really defend him and try to make it look like he didn’t say what he said. And so when he’s mad at the media for them reporting what he said, that just boggles my mind.”
Popovich concluded his comments by saying Trump should own his rhetoric rather than try to change its tone or meaning after the fact.
“When the media reports what he says, I’m not sure why he can get angry about that,” Popovich said. “It does boggle the mind how somebody can be so thin-skinned. It’s all obvious, it’s about him. If anything affects him, if it’s ‘Saturday Night Live’ or ‘Hamilton,’ or she got 3 more million votes than you. ‘They’re illegal.’ It doesn’t matter what it is, there’s a pattern there. And that’s dangerous. I’d like to have someone with gravitas, but he got there through the Electoral College, which is part of our system, and I hope he does some good things.
“There was a young lady on today who said, ‘I just wished he had gone up there and said something like, ‘And I know I said certain things…,’ or, you know, ‘I would really like to bring the people who don’t feel…,’ or, ‘I know some of you are scared.’
“But he can’t do that because bullies don’t do that. That’s why.”