Gregg Popovich on his special relationship with George Hill

It’s no secret how much George Hill and Gregg Popovich care about one another. They stay in touch, make a point to follow what the other is doing throughout a busy NBA season and offer words of encouragement.

Hill was drafted out of IUPUI 26th overall in 2008 NBA Draft by the Spurs, and he then learned under both coach Pop and “big brother” Tony Parker.

Popovich understands Hill’s importance to the Pacers, and said he was thrilled to see Hill recently return to the floor after battling numerous injuries.

Hill played for Popovich from 2008-11.

“He’s a hell of a guy,” Popovich said 90 minutes before securing his 1,000th career win. “Heck of a player. He’s playing great ball. Thrilled for him. He’s had injuries and all that kind of crap. From coming back playing like he is is fantastic. He deserves it.”

After a two-point win over the Pacers, the Spurs went to St. Elmo to celebrate Pop’s place in history. He’s the ninth coach to top 1,000 wins.

Hill made an appearance (Ian Mahinmi, too), and Popovich admitted that the relationship he and Hill have is extra special.

“Yeah,” he said. “I don’t know why. Things happen. You feel like that with certain players. I admittedly, unabashedly called him my favorite player in front of Timmy [Duncan], Manu [Ginobili], and Tony [Parker] all the time. I don’t think they really cared.”

Popovich enjoyed the challenge of helping Hill become more of a point guard, and seeing his game evolve.

“He had a great work ethic,” Popovich continued. His lengthy answers are an indication of Hill’s meaning to him. “I just enjoyed his personality. I enjoyed trying to help turn him into a point guard because he wasn’t really a point guard in a classic sense. He’s more of a scorer. So it’s fun to watch him grow and understand what a point guard has to think about and do. That’s always fun. You feel like you’re coaching and actually doing something instead of ‘Run that drill. Deny that pass. Make sure you run back on defense. Block out. That’s boring. That’s awful. When you watch somebody develop that’s a lot more fun.”

Hill appreciated the kind words.

“It means a lot,” Hill said postgame. “Coming from a coach that is one of the best in the NBA in the history. To be one of his favorites says a lot about myself, about my character, but also about him. I was blessed enough to learn from him and to play with them group of guys.”

During the 2011 NBA Draft, the Pacers and Spurs struck a deal that brought Hill home. The Spurs would get the Pacers’ first-round pick (15), which they used to draft 2014 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. The Pacers had Leonard, out of San Diego State, high on their draft board but already had their wings spots filled.

Popovich was asked, because of Hill’s play and their relationship, if he had to be talked into the deal.

“I don’t know about talked into it,” he replied, “but we were scared to death. (General manager) R.C. [Buford], and I sat that there, and kept staring at each other and looking at each other. It was really difficult personally and professionally. But those are the best trades, because both teams needed that position and player and so it worked out great for both. That doesn’t happen all the time. It’s a good one for everybody.”

2 Responses to Gregg Popovich on his special relationship with George Hill
  1. […] let’s not forget or undervalue the fact that legendary coach Gregg Popovich openly referred to George Hill as his favorite player. A player who has the work ethic and mentality to garner such a compliment from the likes of […]

  2. […] of the group, is on his fifth team. And while he’s the type of player who has earned the lifelong praise of Gregg Popovich, even he will tell you that parachuting into a new team with roughly 25 games […]