Good coaches often take notes and cues from other good coaches. If imitation is the cheapest form of flattery, then Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer is getting a bargain by observing what makes the San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich tick. Popovich has led the Spurs to five NBA championships, the fifth coming last week against LeBron James and the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat. The Spurs not only won that series, but they were in firm control of the series from start to finish, winning in five games.
What is it about the Spurs that has led to so much success? As Meyer suggests, it is the culture around the franchise.
“[Popovich] talks about the culture, and if you don’t fit in the culture, you’ve got to go,” Meyer said in a Q&A with The Columbus Dispatch. “Now, it’s easier when you’re talking about six or 10 guys (on a basketball team) instead of 120 (on a football team). But that’s what I got out of it.”
Basketball fans and analysts will say something similar. The Spurs lack the true icons of the game that generate buzz the way LeBron, Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan ever have, but the Spurs buy into a different philosophy, one that is unselfish in style. That same philosophy can translate to any sport and can often be found somewhere on any championship team. That is what Meyer hopes to be able to develop in Columbus.
“We really study the NBA,” Meyer said when asked how much he pays attention to the pro basketball league. “This is exactly what we’re trying to get done here — culture, culture, culture.”
Ohio State is coming off a season that ended with a two-game losing streak in postseason play. After winning the first 24 games since Meyer was introduced as head coach, Ohio State was upended by Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game and then taken out by Clemson in the Orange Bowl. The Buckeyes are among the top favorites in the Big Ten once again in 2014 and are considered a strong candidate to land one of the four playoff spots in the new College Football Playoff.
If the Buckeyes are to get over what happened last season, embracing that Spurs-like culture will be a good starting point. In fact, the Spurs would be a good example for almost any team out there, regardless of sport.