ESPN’s Stein sidesteps sideline with Popovich sit-down chat about Duncan

ESPN's Marc Stein interviews San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich (facing camera). (Photo courtesy of Marc Stein)
ESPN’s Marc Stein interviews San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich (l).
(Photo courtesy of Marc Stein)

It’s no secret that Gregg Popovich, the San Antonio Spurs head coach, despises in-game interviews. With just a simple Google search, you can find tons of sarcastic quips that Popovich spits out to reporters.

Marc Stein (Travis Bell/ESPN Images)
Marc Stein (Travis Bell/ESPN Images)

But ESPN’s NBA Insider and reporter Marc Stein is no stranger to interviewing Popovich. And with Popovich having a soft spot for Tim Duncan, he was more than willing to sit down with Stein for a one-on-one interview about the first season of the post-Duncan era.

SportsCenter will debut part of the exclusive interview tonight during the SVP SportsCenter (midnight ET), where Stein will be a guest on the show to discuss the interview. With the Spurs retiring Duncan’s jersey on Sunday, SC will run the full interview throughout the weekend.

Front Row caught up with Stein to discover the difference between Sideline Interview Pop and Sit-down Interview Pop.

What’s it like doing a sit-down interview versus an in-game interview with Popovich?
You really can’t even compare the two. With in-game interviews, as we all know, Pop openly loathes them and is essentially protesting against the very nature of them with the closed-off demeanor he takes on in those brief conversations. This was a zillion percent different. This was SportsCenter coordinating producer Hilary Guy and I pitching to the Spurs to sit down with Pop to pay tribute to Tim Duncan on the occasion of his jersey ceremony. After two decades and five championships together, Pop was more than ready to talk Timmy.

Spurs featured tonight as part of ESPN’s NBA twin bill

ESPN airs an NBA doubleheader tonight, starting with the Indiana Pacers and Paul George visiting the Miami Heat and Hassan Whiteside at 7 p.m. ET. Mike Breen and analyst Mark Jackson will call the game action. At 9:30 p.m., the Boston Celtics and Isaiah Thomas will visit the San Antonio Spurs and Kawhi Leonard. Mark Jones, Hall of Famer and analyst Hubie Brown and reporter J.A. Adande will be on the call.

What would surprise fans most about Popovich in a one-on-one interview setting?
‎The big surprise for me, in this case, was hearing Pop, at multiple points in the interview, talk about how much he misses Duncan especially off the court. Now that Timmy is retired, perhaps Pop feels a bit more comfortable letting us get a glimpse of just how close they really are, which is to say they’re even closer than you thought. That’s something I think will come through when you watch the chat.

How would you describe being interviewed by Scott Van Pelt on his SC?
‎Following the NBA for all these years long ago transformed me into a night owl. So I always enjoy getting the call from SVP’s crew, because I love late-night TV and they’ve got such a good ‘late-nighty’ vibe on their incarnation of SC. They know how to have fun.