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The Spurs Finals Run, Ten Lessons.


1) Gregg Popovich - Disciple of Larry Brown started shaky winning 26.6% of his games in 1996-97. Since then, he has never won less than 60% of his games in a season. With the Spurs since 1994, he has loyally led the team for two decades.Outside of his first season as coach, the Spurs have never missed the playoffs under Popovich and they have 4 championships with a chance at a 5th tonight.

A) Jeff Quinn - Disciple of Brian Kelly, started shaky winning only 25% of his games in his first 3 seasons as coach at Buffalo. UB trusted Quinn's upside by giving him a contract extension. Will Quinn build and create a winner at UB and more importantly will UB's trust result in loyalty? Will Quinn stay at Buffalo when some other team gives him an offer?

2) Restocking the Cupboard - An injury to David Robinson sent the Spurs to the bottom of the NBA, when the Spurs won the draft lottery, they had the chance to select the heir apparent to the Admiral. Robinson was able to teach Duncan how to play the game the right way and how to shave properly:

The roses are out Tim not the Daises!

B) The cupboard is full - I don't buy into Turner Gill cupboard was empty theory. 1) Because nobody better say nothing bad about Mr. Gill and 2) Our young guys were so good and healthy, they didn't give anyone else any playing time. With the talent we will get in the MAC, the only way to get better is with gameday reps. Even relative unknown pre-2012 turned MVP Jordan Lynch had 26 attempts passing and 76 rushing before getting the starting job.

Which is why 2012 was disappointing yet exciting. 2013 will hinge on the health and improvement of 6-10 key stars, but the future beyond that will hinge on the development of the young athletes we saw in 2012 especially Joe Licata and Devin Campbell. These youngsters will get playing time, mentorship from the senior Bulls and the knowledge that in 2014, it will be there turn to guide UB forward. Despite the talent cliff after 2013, the future is relatively bright.

3) Small Market - San Antonio is proclaimed a small market. I once heard Max Kellerman, a NYC native now living in Los Angeles, describe how it is unfair for small markets to be able to compete with large markets, the ESPN narrative that only New York City, Los Angeles, and sometimes Chicago, Boston, Miami and Dallas matter in the country.

The Metropolitan Statistical Area of San Antonio is estimated at 2.2 million, that is not a small market. When the NBA has a problem, they solve it with a "small market"

2001: Vancouver (2,313,328) to Memphis (1,369,548)
2002: Charlotte (2,454,619) to New Orleans (1,452,502)
2008: Seattle (4,399,332) to Oklahoma City (1,367,325)

The Spurs are also the 10th most valuable NBA teamaccording to Forbes, and the Spurs have consistently led the league in ratings for local regular season broadcasts.

C) Small Market - Buffalo has 1,213,668 in it's combined statistical area, Rochester has 1,177,566. St. Catharines-Niagara adds another 392,184 people and Hamilton adds 721,053. That puts 3.5 million people within a one-hour radius of UB. Buffalo and Buffalonians should not use the "small market" tag as a crutch or an excuse. The market is big enough, the fervor is not.

We should realize what the NBA realizes, Big Market = Big Competition. This is why the NBA retreats to smaller markets with less competition. The only thing keeping UB from competing with the Ohio State's of the world, is our own interest and support of the program.

4) Tony Parker - Every team needs a Quarterback.

D) Joe Licata - Likely to be the sixth consecutive year with a new opening day #1 QB. Licata however will be the first UB QB since Drew Willy in 2008, to start opening day after starting at least 1 game for UB in the previous year. As a redshirt sophomore, the QB of today is also the QB of the future, with 3 years of eligibility UB has stability under center not seen since we thought Maynard would be the QB of the future in 2009.

5) Boring To Watch - Synonym for I don't watch the Spurs so I'll lash out at them instead of talking about how I don't do my job.

E) MAC Experts, Season Previewers, etc - I have watched more painstakingly bad UB football than my liver can handle, so I find it hard to believe that these MAC experts are watching all the UB tape. That is sometimes a saving grace when we are bad, but this year its obvious. You know Kahlil Mack, but you don't know Najja Johnson and Cortney Lester were #1 and #2 respectively in interceptions in the MAC last year. Did you know Colby Way had 7 sacks? Did you see the offensive line propel UB to 6th in rushing in the conference despite multiple RB injuries which at one point had us lining up a rarely used fullback as our starting RB? Did you notice that BO is still one of the best running backs in the country?

I don't think they're watching.*

*Losing is ugly, winning is awesome but expectations are SCARY. Everyday that the USA Today puts some team behind the Bulls, my stomach turns a bit...surely they'll put us in the bottom 25, we have to be at least bottom 40...gulp, we're in the top 85...and this makes me uncomfortable.

6) Manu Ginobili - Injured, washed up, done. That is all I heard for weeks of NBA playoffs. Until he wasn't, in sports, and in life, it ain't over till it's over.

F) Branden Oliver - Injured, disrespected, with new pressure, from UB fans and others expecting a return to top form. BO also has competition, that he has never had before; in his first year, BO led the Bulls with 298 yards rushing. In 2013, he has James Potts and Devin Campbell hoping to steel some carries from the Senior. UB fans are hoping that like Manu in game 5, when the pressure is greatest, BO will shine brightest.

7) Whose State Is It Anyway? - Texas is Dallas, Texas is Houston. Texas is UT. Texas is the Dallas Cowboys. Texas is also about winning, and as a result San Antonio is Texas' team.

G) New York Empire - Syracuse is New York's College Team, Rutgers' invisible fans rule the NYC media market wing of the B1G (via extreme force and thrown basketballs I assume) and Buffalo is now New York's State University. Like Texas, New York, (State and City) only care about being braggadocios and winning. Claiming to be NY's SU is good, NY respects arrogant claims, but we have to back it up with wins. No self-respecting New Yorker will tolerate losses to the likes of Ohioans or if we lose, we better only lose to UMass and/or NIU.

8) The Los Angeles Lakers - The small bad. San Antonio's sweep of the Lakers was symbolic of a changing in guard. In 2007, small markets ruled the league. In the semifinals, Cleveland defeated Detroit and San Antonio defeated Utah. Cleveland, tolerable because of their heartwarming hometown superstar LeBron James, were quickly swept off the map by a cold efficient Spurs team.

Which marked a change of the "team" era of NBA (between 1994 and 2007 characterized by the Rockets, the most complete team ever the 2nd version of the MJ Bulls, the Spurs, the Pistons and the Kobe and Shaq Lakers) and ushered in the "SuperTeam" era (Characterized by star stacking teams with the affinity for nicknaming themselves the Big 3: Boston, Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, and Miami"

With the sweep over the Lakers, the Spurs, showed that a good team could stand the test of time even during the "SuperTeam" era.

H) The MAC, Win - "Been there once cannot go back so we gone have to win the MAC" - Me in 2010.

Well, we went back, so the MAC is once again our primary goal. In 2008, UB proved that football could be successful in the middle of the highest level of college football. We now have to prove that it wasn't a one time fluke.

9) Danny Green - Kawhi Leonard - Gary Neal - Finding talent others passed up. Leonard was drafted at 15. So he didn't start from the bottom, but it seems he fell from lottery consideration because his offensive game was not on par with other forwards. All he has done, is make LeBron look human with his defense, (despite LeBron being only 14 assists shy of averaging a triple-double during the finals)

Danny Green the oft-cut guard averaged 11 points per game, but is shooting a ridiculous 66% from three during the finals.

Gary Neal who was characteristically signed by the Spurs from Europe, but uncharacteristically, was American and not European. Neal has provided key minutes (and in game 3 lots of points), which help spell Manu and Tony Parker during the long playoff run.

I) Recruiting (locally) - UB currently has 23 athletes from Western New York and Southern Ontario. Great athletes that may have been overlooked by other schools including: Dillon Guy, Alex Neutz, Andre Davis and Joe Licata. They join other local legends for UB including: Naaman Roosevelt, James Starks, Steven Means, Ernest Jackson, and Domonic Cook.

UB has let some local talent slip I wrote about them almost a year ago today.

10) The Miami Heat - The Big Bad, the Miami Heat. The embodiment of the SuperTeam era. The best player in the game, a premier perimeter big man, and one of the most dynamic guards in NBA history, along with a supporting cast that includes one of the best perimeter shooters of all time, one of the best isolation defenders of all time and one of the most bizarre characters on earth.

Up 3-2, the Spurs have already done what people said they couldn't. With a team that has been together for what seems like forever, they have provided an alternative narrative. The Heat way may get you on ESPN but the Spurs way just might be better.

J) Consistency - The key to success at Buffalo is the same as San Antonio...consistency. Between NBA Finals appearances, the Spurs lost to 5 different teams in the playoffs (Lakers, Mavericks, Suns, Grizzles, Thunder) The temptation to tear it all down to counter the length of the Lakers and Mavericks, the speed of the Suns, the size of the Grizzles or the youth of the Thunder had to be strong, but the Spurs stuck to the plan.

UB has a new AD who if he is anything, is a man with a plan. We have a coach with no reason to change the plan that he is confident will work. The Spurs have 2 games to write the final chapter in their book, UB has 14 games in the fall to do the same.