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Plenty of parallels between Patriots, Spurs

06.16.14 at 6:00 am ET

The Spurs wrapped up their fifth NBA championship with a 104-87 win over the Heat on Sunday night, a title that cements the legacy of the Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan as one of the best coach/player combinations in the recent history of professional basketball.

It’s a different sport, but from this viewpoint, it’s hard not to be struck by the parallels between the Patriots and Spurs. The two franchises seem to be cut from the same cloth — the management style, team-building approach and relationship between coach and star player that allow San Antonio to prosper are markedly similar to the way New England approaches life in the NFL.

As we wrote last year, the commonalties between the two teams are numerous. It starts with the stars, and Duncan and Tom Brady are cut from the same cloth. Both set the tone for their teams, and both have a like-minded approach with their respective head coach, a relationship built on trust and understanding. In addition, both teams needed a little luck to land their respective star: Brady was somehow available in the sixth round, while Duncan was acquired after the Spurs saw the bounce of a few ping-pong balls go their way.

Last week, Brady acknowledged he was impressed by the level of teamwork displayed by both the Spurs and the Heat to that point in the NBA Finals.

“He’€™s incredible,”€ Brady said of Duncan. “I think the thing you take from watching (the two teams) is how good they are as a team. LeBron James without the other guys he has is nothing. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli, without the guys they have on that team, as an individual you can’€™t succeed in a team sport.

“€œIt’€™s very different than golf or one of those sports that maybe some guys like. I like it as a hobby, but team sports, to me, bring out the best in everybody. They bring out your competitiveness, the discipline, the willingness to do whatever is best for the team and not necessarily the individual.”

Then, there are the coaches: Bill Belichick and Popovich are similarly inclined individualists who were born into military families. Both were well-respected assistants who eventually evolved into successful head coaches, and both do not suffer fools gladly.

Ultimate, the organizational philosophies also mesh. Former Patriots GM Scott Pioli and Spurs GM R.C. Buford have spent time together comparing notes on the team-building process, and both understand the idea that when it comes to constructing a roster, it’s not about collecting talent. It’s about assembling a team.

“œJust because the football and the basketball aren’€™t shaped alike,” Pioli told reporters a few years ago who asked about the commonalities between the Patriots and Spurs, “€œdoesn’€™t mean ideas can’€™t be.

“€œTo have sustained excellence over a decade is extremely difficult, and the Spurs have done it as well as anyone,”€ Pioli added. “€œWhat is really impressive is their player development — the fact that they’€™ve brought in so many international players and integrated them into a system.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Gregg Popovich, LeBron James, R.C. Buford



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