Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are aiming for their fourth Super Bowl title.
Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs are going for their sixth NBA championship.
Different sports. Similar dynasties.
Photo: USA TODAY
“They’re built and designed culturally very similarly, knowing who the leader is, and making sure that people are going to fit in with what the leadership wants and how they want to do it,” said Scott Pioli, head of the Patriots player personnel department during the championship seasons.
Stability at the top is crucial to both teams’ success. Brady is in his 15th season, Duncan his 18th. They are humble superstars who set a team-first example.
Bill Belichick has coached the Patriots to 11 division titles in the past 12 seasons and has home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs for the fourth time in five years. Gregg Popovich has led the Spurs to the playoffs in 17 of his 18 full seasons as coach.
Longtime owners Robert Kraft and Peter Holt have made it clear who has authority — Belichick on the Patriots, Popovich and general manager R. C. Buford on the Spurs.
And there is mutual admiration.
“Any successful franchise has good synergy between ownership, management and coaches,” Popovich said.
The Patriots “obviously have that. It’s a fantastic organization,” he said.
Belichick returned the compliment.
“I love the way he coaches that team,” the Patriots leader said. “I admire it.”
Pioli is very familiar with both clubs.
He was with the Patriots from 2000 to 2008, and has had many discussions about team building with Buford, a close friend.
“Having a locker room that is dominated by the right kind of people and the right makeup is just as important as talent if you want to sustain championship level football or basketball,” said Pioli, now assistant general manager of the Atlanta Falcons. “The key [was] to make sure that we went out and got players that love and were willing to commit to football the way that the head coach would. And that’s what San Antonio does.”
Belichick and Popovich are the longest serving active coaches in their leagues. They demand precision in practices and games, stress team over individual success and treat their stars like their other players.
When they mess up, Brady and Duncan hear about it.
“The Spurs and the Patriots have a collection of guys that are over themselves,” said Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who became friendly with Belichick while coaching the Boston Celtics. “Pop talks about that all the time, and so does Belichick: ‘I need guys to be over themselves and about the team.’”
Duncan passes to Tony Parker for baskets. Brady throws to Rob Gronkowski for touchdowns.
“When you have a superstar player that is humble, and buys in and is willing to do what’s best for the team, that sets the tone for the rest of the team,” Patriots special teams star Matthew Slater said. “Looking at Tim Duncan from afar, you definitely see that. And then being in the locker room with Thomas, it’s the same thing.”
That constant excellence has come in an era when parity and salary caps mitigate against it.
The Patriots won Super Bowls in the 2001, 2003 and 2004 seasons. Since Brady became a starter in 2001, they have the best record in the four major US pro sports leagues, with the Spurs second.
The Spurs won NBA titles in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 and this year. Since Duncan arrived in 1997, they are first in winning percentage with the Patriots second.
“Your success is very much dependent on the person next to you, and their ability and dependability in those two sports,” Pioli said. “It’s about the players being able to respond to the great leader.”
Both organizations have found veterans who could contribute, veterans who were tough and low maintenance. However, just because Patriots assistant coaches learned from the master, success did not follow them — Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Josh McDaniels — when they became NFL head coaches.
So why do New England keep winning?
“That comes down to three people,” Slater said. “Mr Kraft, coach Belichick and Tom Brady.”
The Spurs have a similar foundation.
“What is the goal? Do you want to win just one championship or do you want to sustain it?” Pioli asked. “When your core chemistry is hitting on all cylinders, that’s when you have a chance to win championships.”
‘GREAT EVENING‘: In the women’s singles in Rome, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova advanced, while Rafael Nadal swept into the quarters in the men’s singles Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Friday had to dig deep to advance to the semi-finals of the women’s doubles at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. The top seeds, who did not drop a game in their opening match on the clay courts at the Foro Italico, battled to a 7-6 (7/5), 6-4 victory over sixth seeds Veronika Kudermetova and Katerina Siniakova in 1 hour, 39 minutes. The reigning Wimbledon champions saved nine of 11 break points and converted three of eight, winning 56 percent of points on their second serve and sending down two aces
’SO CONSISTENT’: The victory gave the world No. 1 and world No. 2 a 21-1 win-loss record and their fourth title of the season after successes in Brisbane, Dubai and Doha Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic on Sunday cruised to their fourth women’s doubles title of the season at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome in their first tournament back since the suspension of the WTA Tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The top seeds took just 63 minutes to complete a comprehensive 6-2, 6-2 victory over unseeded German-Romanian duo Anna-Lena Friedsam and Raluca Olaru at the Foro Italico. It was the Taiwanese-Czech pairing’s first outing since they won the Qatar Open in February. “After five months, you don’t know what to expect,” Strycova told the WTA Web site.
ANOTHER SCANDAL: Searches focused on several riders, including Dayer Quintana, a source said, while the two being held were reportedly a doctor and physiotherapist French police on Monday detained two people as part of an investigation into suspected doping in the Arkea-Samsic team at this year’s Tour de France, prosecutors announced. The probe is the first significant one in several years for the repeatedly scandal-hit tour, which on Sunday wrapped up in Paris with a victory for 21-year-old Tadej Pogacar, who became the youngest winner in more than a century. Prosecutor Dominique Laurens in Marseille said in a statement that an investigation was being carried out into a “small part” of France-based Arkea-Samsic, without specifying who had been placed in custody. Laurens added that the two
‘FUN TIME’: Denver’s Nikola Jokic said that his team would not accept that anyone else is better than them and the opposition need to play much better than they do Just about everyone had LA versus LA written in for the NBA’s Western Conference finals, but the resilient Denver Nuggets have crashed the party. Behind Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, the Nuggets advanced to the conference finals for the first time since 2009 to face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. Game 1 is scheduled to be played tomorrow. This was no ordinary road. The Nuggets fell behind 3-1 in their first-round series against the Utah Jazz before bouncing back with three straight victories. Then they went down 3-1 to the Los Angeles Clippers in the second round before winning in Game 7