“I Want Some Nasty”

My friend Kevin Arnovitz on what coach Gregg Popovich told his unbeatable San Antonio Spurs during a time out:

Wired coaches are a nice little frill of the modern-day NBA telecast, but the segment often produces a flurry of well-worn clichés and platitudes. But every once in a while a huddle sound-byte will transmit the essence of a team, its coach and its guiding principles.

“Are we having fun yet?” Gregg Popovich asked the team as they trailed by nine. He raised his voice enough to be heard over “Sweet Caroline,” but no more loudly than he needed to. “I need a little bit more dose of nasty. I’m seeing a little bit of unconfident, a little hesitation. It’s not supposed to be easy. Every round gets tougher. … Penetrate hard, good passes, shoot with confidence. I want some nasty.”

Popovich expressed himself with pure calm. This was one adult speaking to other adults, and the tone was as moderate and measured as anything we’d hear at a random office meeting. Five minutes later, the Spurs took a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

“Be aggressive” is the tired urge of every coach to players. “I want some nasty” takes on a whole new freshness. It feels more actionable somehow. It actually reminds me of DFW in the way one uncommon, vivid adjective can carry an entire thought.

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