Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich formed one of the greatest player-coach duos in NBA history, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that others have tried to take after them.
That's why when Steve Kerr was named head coach of the Golden State Warriors in 2014, his first order of business was to set an expectation that he'd treat Stephen Curry the way Popovich had treated Duncan and David Robinson in San Antonio. Unlike many coaches, Popovich is willing to scream at his superstars under the logic that if they fall in line, others will follow.
"That's how we started when he first signed onto the team," Curry told The Mercury News' Melissa Rohlin. "We had a talk … That was something he brought up as setting the culture and identity of establishing himself as a coach. His expectation was that I'd be able to take that. And from 1 through 15, he could keep everybody accountable and not have to worry about hurting people's feelings."
The tactic, along with others, has paid dividends for the Warriors, who've reached three consecutive Finals and won two championships with Kerr and Curry leading the charge. Beyond their free-flowing motion offense and five-man switching defense, the Warriors enjoy a vaunted locker-room culture centered on joy.
Kerr learned from Popovich first-hand, as he played for the Spurs from 1998-2001 and in 2002-03, winning two titles in the process. Led by Popovich and Duncan, the Spurs made the postseason every single year and captured five titles over 19 seasons before the big man retired in 2016.
"Pop was very wise. He knew guys like me, we weren’t the right target (to be yelled at)," Kerr said of the San Antonio coach going after his superstars. "You've got to know your audience. You've got to know your team."
Now, Kerr and Popovich are both among the most respected bench bosses in the game and remain close friends who bond over their similar stances on political and social issues, which even prompted a mock presidential campaign. Kerr noted that beyond being able to chew out his best players, other pages he borrowed from Pop's playbook include an emphasis on work-life balance, allowing his players to rest, and encouraging them to pursue interests outside of basketball.
Popovich praised Kerr for mastering what he believes to be the most important thing as an NBA coach - keeping it real with players.
"He's taken who he is as an individual, onto the court, onto practice - his sense of humor is huge, his competitiveness is huge, his genuine quality of being aggressive but loving at the same time," Popovich said. "Like this is the way we do things, and we're going to stick with it. We're going to persevere. He gets people to want to follow him and he earns their respect."