Trump cast­ing ‘a pall’ over United States, says Popovich

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - CINDY BOREN

Noth­ing Gregg Popovich has seen in the first 100-plus days of Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­dency has changed his mind.

The San An­to­nio Spurs coach, who was highly crit­i­cal of Trump af­ter his in­au­gu­ra­tion, was both­ered by the fir­ing of FBI di­rec­tor James Comey last week and in­ves­ti­ga­tions into al­leged links be­tween the pres­i­dent and Rus­sia.

“Usu­ally, things hap­pen in the world and you go to work and you’ve got your fam­ily and you’ve got your friend and you do what you do, but to this day I feel like there’s a cloud, a pall, over the whole coun­try, in a para­noid sur­real sort of way that’s got noth­ing to do with the Democrats los­ing the elec­tion,” Popovich said be­fore Game 1 of the Spurs’ Na­tional Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion West­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nal with Golden State. Popovich isn’t just any coach spout­ing off. An Air Force Academy grad­u­ate with a de­gree in Soviet Stud­ies, he was an ac­tive-duty in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer in East­ern Europe af­ter grad­u­at­ing in 1970.

“It’s got to do with the way one in­di­vid­ual con­ducts him­self. It’s em­bar­rass­ing. It’s dan­ger­ous to our in­sti­tu­tions and what we all stand for and what we ex­pect the coun­try to be,” he said. “But for this in­di­vid­ual, he’s at a game show and ev­ery­thing that hap­pens be­gins and ends with him, not our peo­ple or our coun­try. When he talks about those things, that’s just a ruse. That’s disin­gen­u­ous, cyn­i­cal and fake.”

Popovich, like Golden State Coach Steve Kerr, has not been shy about the state of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics. It’s dif­fer­ent, though, with Popovich, who has five NBA cham­pi­onships and is re­plac­ing Mike Krzyzewski as coach of the U.S. na­tional team. Popovich, at 68, is a cere­bral coach who never holds back.

“I’d just feel bet­ter,” Popovich told reporters the day af­ter Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion, “if some­one 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 and the per­son who oc­cu­pies it. That re­spect has to be earned. 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 clearly feels that his power and po­si­tion en­able him to speak for oth­ers. “Some­times when life moves along,” he told reporters in mid-Fe­bru­ary, “you’re pre­sented with sit­u­a­tions where you find it nec­es­sary to speak be­cause so many peo­ple ei­ther seem to be afraid to or, more sin­is­ter, are un­will­ing to face things and let things go and worry about their own sit­u­a­tions.”

On Sun­day, he felt com­pelled to speak up again. It’s never that sim­ple with Popovich, though. Voic­ing his opin­ion also al­lowed him to take some of the at­ten­tion off his team, a rare un­der­dog against the War­riors.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

Greg Popovich has a lot to say about Don­ald Trump.

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