Gregg Popovich flattered NFL, MLB teams model themselves after Spurs

MEXICO CITY -- In the wake of winning the World Series, Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein spent time reading up on the San Antonio Spurs to study the organization’s culture, according to an article in The Athletic.

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich laughed and called Epstein’s actions “flattering.” But the truth is that several teams across numerous sports leagues have sought out the Spurs for advice on building a winning culture. For instance, Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn has developed a bond with Spurs general manager R.C. Buford, who sent him a text message this week wishing him luck in the postseason.

“The culture that San Antonio has in their sport, although it’s different than our sport, is still about dealing with their players and coaches and how you want the organization to be seen,” Quinn told ESPN.com’s Vaughn McClure. “We can learn from everybody, man.”

Epstein is taking a similar approach after winning a World Series with the Cubs. Epstein wants to model the Cubs after the Spurs, who have won five championships under Popovich and are in the midst of a 20-year run of perennially contending for titles.

Epstein has never met Popovich, but is fascinated with San Antonio's organizational culture of selflessness.

“They’re a great model because they are conscious of creating a culture where players opt in for the greater good and sacrifice personal interest in order to win, in order to have the right rapport with each other,” Epstein told The Athletic. “They value the same things, even after winning, and that can be hard. They’re open. They talk about winning. Popovich is intentional with everything he does, and the players hold each other accountable."

Told of Epstein’s plans, Popovich chuckled. But interestingly, Popovich, who was born in East Chicago, Indiana. is a Chicago Cubs fan.

“Well, it’s kind of embarrassing, to tell you the truth,” Popovich told ESPN.com. “I’m always worried people think we know something and we really don’t, and we’re gonna find out that we don’t know something. And then the gig is up, so to speak. It’s flattering. We’ve been around a while, had some good success. So I think we all do that. We all look at other organizations in other situations and try to learn from them. So if that’s the case, I guess it means we’ve done something pretty well and haven’t really screwed it up much. Whatever we can impart in someone else, we’re always ready to do it.”