Basketball just happens to be something Spurs coach Gregg Popovich made a career out of. Although he played throughout his childhood and into college, Popovich always had his eye on weightier matters.
His bachelor’s degree is in Soviet studies and he reportedly considered a career in the CIA before becoming the undisputed master of a different, non-life-or-death, profession. So while most coaches in the NBA — or any sport, for that matter — would sound pretty foolish talking about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy 50 years ago Friday, Popovich manages to actually sound like intelligent.
The Air Force Academy alum told reporters Friday that he thinks about Kennedy’s death, which happened when Popovich was in high school, often — and how it started a chain reaction in global politics.
“The big things I’ve always wondered about was what would have happened with Vietnam,” Popovich told the San Antonio Express-News. “Would [Kennedy] have been smart enough to get us out of that quagmire? It sort of started with him in office, but we’ll never know.
“No wonder we don’t trust our government. What we got was a bunch of lies from politicians. It was just a series of ideologue misjudgments and the lies on top of that. I think it was the beginning of the downfall, really, of our country. We lost the trust we had gained through the second World War and our economic stability and, all of a sudden, it all started going downhill.”
The Vietnam War began in the mid-1950s, but American involvement didn’t ramp up until the early 1960s, when Kennedy was in office. President Richard Nixon suspended U.S. action in 1973 and North Vietnam achieved victory with the fall of Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, in 1975.
By then, Popovich was several years into pursuing coaching as an assistant at Air Force. At least, that’s what his official biography says. The government probably destroyed all documentation of his covert operations into Laos years ago.