It was only a matter of time before San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich, arguably the NBA’s most consistent source of withering Trump criticism, shared his thoughts. That time arrived on Thursday evening, before a game between the Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers, and Popovich made it clear that he had been doing a lot of thinking.
In extensive comments, the 71-year-old coach castigated Trump for having, as he saw it, ensured a lack of “preparation” for the mob’s assault on the seat of the U.S. government. In fact, Popovich said, the president took pleasure from the scene, which horrified many others and has led to questions about why the Capitol was so easily overrun.
“I believe with all my heart that Trump enjoyed it,” Popovich told reporters. “They talked about the police and how easy it was, and the barriers were pulled and they just walked right in.
“That doesn’t happen unless there is a wink and a nod somewhere. That just doesn’t happen. It’s never happened at any protest anybody has ever been to.”
“There wasn’t any preparation. He didn’t want any preparation,” Popovich said of Trump. “He’s incapable. He’s incompetent.”
Calling Trump “deranged” and “dangerous,” Popovich suggested that an invocation of the 25th Amendment, under which a sitting president can be removed from power by the vice president and a majority of Cabinet officials, would be appropriate.
Popovich said he thought that Pence was far too “obsequious” to actually move against Trump in that manner, but that the vice president could be a “hero” if he did.
“Then he can have his self-respect,” the coach said of Pence. “But he has none.”
Popovich also shared some scorn for Republican Sens. Josh Hawley (Mo.) and Ted Cruz (Tex.), who have been prominent supporters of Trump and who, even after the rioting at the Capitol, were among several senators to object to the confirmation of some electoral votes.
“Hawley is a joke,” Popovich declared. “This entitled, elite-educated person is really smart, just like Ted Cruz is smart, but they threw fuel onto Trump’s fire. They are worse than Trump because they’re not sick. They’re not deeply flawed.
“Mr. Trump is not a well man. These people are sane,” he continued. “But their self-interest, their greed, their lust for power outweighs their love of country or sense of duty to the Constitution or to public service.”
As with several other NBA coaches, as well as numerous players, Popovich saw “White privilege” in the apparent impunity with which the rioters acted. Many in the league on Wednesday compared what they saw that day to the treatment over the summer of Black Lives Matter protests, in which police and National Guardsmen frequently had a heavier, more proactive presence.
“The drastic difference between the way protesters this past spring and summer were treated and the encouragement given to today’s protesters who acted illegally,” the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat said Wednesday in a joint statement, “just shows how much more work we have to do.”
Popovich said Wednesday that the scene at the Capitol “laid bare the blatant and dangerous, debilitating racism that is our country’s sin that has plagued us all these years.”
“There can’t be a better obvious example of a system that is not fair as far as justice and equal rights are concerned, and protection of citizens,” he added. “It was just right in your face.
“Anyone that can ignore that is a shameful individual, in my opinion.”
A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy who served as an officer for five years, Popovich became the head coach of the Spurs in 1996 and has led the team to five NBA championships, most recently in 2014. Three days after Trump was elected in 2016, Popovich declared himself “sick to my stomach” about the result, and the coach has hardly been shy since then about sharing his feelings.
Over Trump’s term, set to end on Jan. 20 with the inauguration of president-elect Biden, Popovich has described Trump in the following ways, all on separate occasions:
On Thursday, Popovich ended his thoughts by asserting that trying to oust Trump, “even if it doesn’t work,” would send a “message to the world that is laughing at us.”
“I’m embarrassed to be an American and see people seeing what they saw yesterday,” said the coach. “It would send a great message, and maybe help all of us to heal a bit and start to feel good.”
“We’ll see where it goes,” he added. “But we can’t forget the miserable example of racism that was the biggest takeaway of the whole day, beside the cowardliness and obsequiousness of our elected officials.”