The hidden side of politics

Popovich to miss Game 3 after wife’s death

Reported by ESPN:

Gregg Popovich, whose wife, Erin, died Wednesday, will not coach Game 3 of the San Antonio Spurs‘ first-round playoff series on Thursday night, the team announced.

Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina will fill in for Popovich against the Golden State Warriors.

Erin Popovich died early Wednesday at the age of 67. She had been battling an illness for an extended period. The couple was married for four decades and had two children — Jill and Mickey — as well as two grandchildren.

“Very sad day,” veteran guard Tony Parker said at the team’s shootaround Thursday morning. “Very emotional. It’s going to be very hard to play basketball today, but we have to do it.

“For me, it’s very emotional. She was a great lady, always [considered her] a mom. Everybody knows that because I arrived at 19. It’s very, very emotional. … She was a great lady, very caring, showed a lot of love. She was unbelievable.”

Added Manu Ginobili: “You don’t know how to handle it. It just happens. We’re all devastated. We’re hurting. We all know the type of guy Pop is. Not many people know the type of gal that Erin was. It’s painful.”

Spurs general manager R.C. Buford said he spoke to Popovich on Thursday morning and said the coach was “overwhelmed” by the support and “very appreciative of the love that’s been shared” but wanted the team’s focus on the game.

“We’re all suffering a profound loss to a really important member of our family and our team,” Buford said. “Erin and Gregg were best friends who were together for 40 years, and Erin’s impact and influence on our organization, on our families, on our players and their families will be felt for years to come. …

“As you’d expect from Pop, he wants our focus to be about the game today, about this series, and that’s what today will be about. We’ll miss Erin a lot, and the focus of our team will be on supporting Pop. But we’ve got basketball to get back to.”

Ginobili said the Spurs will “do our best” to focus on basketball, even though their minds are elsewhere.

“As an individual, you try to support, you try to be there. As a team, I guess you show your support and then respect trying to go out there and compete even harder than you ever did. It’s what we can do. And we’ll try to honor it.”

The outpouring of support from across the league continued Thursday.

“When I initially heard the news, I was with my wife, and we just both stopped everything we were doing and just kind of had a moment to mourn his wife and pray for his family,” Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade said Thursday. “LeBron said it best: We all compete against each other in this league [and] we all are on opposite benches, but in some form and some way, it’s a bond and a brotherhood in the game of basketball for everybody. So it’s a sad moment for the NBA whenever someone loses someone close to them, like Coach Pop did.”

Said Parker: “It puts everything in perspective that it’s way bigger than basketball. So that was very nice to see all these people, the whole NBA, showing love for Pop and for his wife.”

Popovich, who has won five NBA titles since becoming coach in 1996, had run the Spurs’ practice Wednesday.

Golden State has a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

“Very tough, very tough in the middle of the playoffs like this,” Parker said of the switch from Popovich to Messina for Game 3. “But we’re going to try to do our best, give it 100 percent and try to get a win for him and his wife.”

Added Ginobili: “Not having him with us, not having him here today, it’s hard.”

ESPN’s Michael C. Wright contributed to this report.