Popovich press conference shows cracks in art of interviewing

Much has been made over the years about Gregg Popovich’s surly disposition with the media. His post-game press conference after the Spurs were eliminated from the NBA playoffs was classic Pop.

Yes, Popovich is cantankerous and difficult. But, in many cases, the journalists asking the “questions” earn his cranky – sometimes witty – reactions.

It can be challenging enough to cull insightful information from these “gang-bang” media scrums that dominate pro and major college sports. When journalists approach these occasions lazily and without strategy, they can expect what they get.

Whatever happened to asking a simple question that rouses a meaningful answer?

Popovich’s was most recent post-game presser should be delivered to journalism students as a model of what not to do when interviewing.

The first question starts with a needless statement, and ends with: “Talk about the game in the second half.”

Later, an Associated Press reporter, searching for something – anything – to add to his story, states: “Seemed like the Thunder beat you to the boards tonight as well.”

Popovich: “That’s a correct statement.”

Another reporter: “Obviously, the outcome didn’t go in your favor …”

Popovich: “That’s obvious. You are right on it as usual.”

The exchange between reporter and coach that drew the most ire from media types was this:

Reporter: “Do you have any regrets about not going smaller earlier?

Coach: “No. Are you coaching now? You should try not to do that.”

Legitimate? Maybe.

Granted, Popovich could have reacted with less sensitivity to a question of real interest.

But asking a question that can be answered with “yes” or “no” is something you’re taught not to do during the second semester of journalism school. If there were a 10 commandments of journalism, one would be: “Thou shalt not ask a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question.”

Yet those – and rolling statements masked as questions – are all too commonplace among journalists – specifically sports types in post-game scrums on deadline.

A better question to ask: “Why did you go small when you did?”

It seems the goal of many sports journalists is to simply collect quotes to fill a game story, when the real objective should be to gather valuable information – through thoughtful, straight-forward questioning – that they can’t discover themselves watching a game.