Gregg Popovich and Friends — CJ Quartlbaum
Gregg Popovich is now the all time leader in wins for a coach in the NBA. Over the course of his 26 year career his San Antonio Spurs have made the playoffs 22 times, won 5 championships, he is a 3 time coach of the year, and has led Team USA to an Olympic gold medal.
While the on court stuff is cool, Pop’s real legacy is in his coaching tree. These are people who have passed through the Spurs organization and gone on to coach in various capacities. This tree includes names such as: Mike Budenholzer, Ime Udoka, Steve Kerr, Quin Snyder, Monty Williams, Becky Hammon, and Doc Rivers. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. One interesting thing about this group is the reverence and love they have for. For someone who has a reputation for being curmudgeon with the media, everyone who’s worked for or with the man, loves him.
A Family Affair
Pop goes out of his way to create a familial atmosphere for those who work for him. There are stories of him going out of his way to help people who only interned with him for a month. His dinners are legendary (I’m really into his 5 person max rule and the presence of good wine at all times).
Pop understands that while he is the Head Coach, his success has not come alone. There’s a lesson for us in that. I’ve come across many Christians over the years who want to live on an island. They often declare that their faith is a “private” matter. While I understand the sentiment, I have to strongly disagree. Our faith is personal but it is not private. Scripture has no category for the loner Christian.
We all need a strong team of believers around us. Michael Keller recently on Genesis 1:26–27 and one of his main points was that when God said it’s not good for us to be alone, that extends so much further than marital relationships. God knows so much better than we do the danger solitude can present. The enemy prowls around like a lion seeking whom he would devour. Lions don’t get the gazelles in the middle of the pack, they pick off the ones trotting behind.
We need each other for protection, encouragement, support, love, and to set each other straight when we’re veering off the path. All of those ‘one another’ commands in the New Testament are about this very thing. It pains me when I see people (and this has been me) struggling in their faith while divorced from community, and not seeing the connection. It also pains me (and this has been me too) when people have community and continually ignore the wisdom and guidance that comes from it. This is one of the main reasons God has given us each other.
Find Your People
In an age of over connectedness our relationships tend to be wide but not deep. We’re “friends” with hundreds of people yet being more isolated than ever before. So much of life is lived digitally that when we get together in person, we spend our time with our faces buried in our devices. And let’s be real, making friends at this age is hard with all that we have going on but it is crucial to our success as Christians.
We need people who know us. People who show up for us and we show up for them. Relationships marked by love and endurance. Jonathan Tjarks is a sportswriter who was diagnosed in 2020 with a rare form of cancer. He recently wrote this piece about the importance of community and his hope that if he passes early, there would be people in his son’s life that truly knows him. Read it and really reflect on his prescient words.
I love Pop’s rule of five people at dinner. Applying that to our lives, I think we need five people we can go really deep with. Preferably this group of five is as diverse as possible. While linking arms with people just like us is easy, if we put in the effort to know people with whom we are only bonded by Jesus we will find their perspectives enhance our lives. There are things that I would have never known if not for my friends from the PNW or Deep South.
These relationships reflect the beauty of the Gospel. One humanity reconciled under the Lordship of Jesus. Bonded not by our affinities that can and normally do wane over time but bonded by the life saving work of the cross. This is a taste of what’s to come. Revelation 7:9–10 gives us a picture of this future reality. People of all tribes, nations, and tongues worshiping Jesus together.
When we pray like Jesus and say “on Earth as it is in heaven” do we have this picture in mind? Do we want this now? Are we willing to go out of our way to see this?
Of course you can have more than five people but let’s start there. We only endure to the end by the power of the Spirit and those he has placed in our lives. Don’t try to live on your own, it doesn’t work and it isn’t what God designed.
Originally published at https://www.cjquartlbaum.com on March 18, 2022.