NBA Coach Sends Rival a Heartfelt Message: 'I Promise I’ll Be Nice'

Gregg Popovich hassled Craig Sager for years. Then Sager received tough news.

APRIL 21, 2014— -- Gregg Popovich is finally opening up for Craig Sager.

Popovich, head coach of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, is well known for his terse answers to in-game questions from Sager and other sideline reporters, often poking fun at Sager’s colorful, clashing outfits. He has even used Sager’s pocket square to wipe his nose.

Sager, who works for TNT, is missing this year’s NBA playoffs to undergo treatment for leukemia. In a statement released by Turner Sports Friday, Sager joked about their relationship.

"Too bad, I had some probing questions for Pop," Sager said.

Sager's son, Craig Sager Jr., filled in for Sunday’s broadcast of San Antonio’s playoff opener against Dallas, asking Popovich a few questions after the third quarter. Junior donned one of his dad’s ties for the occasion, an orange and red necktie featuring plastic rubies.

The prickly Popovich, 65, warmed up to the new interviewer, providing unusually deep answers about the Spurs’ play.

“Great job. Great questions from Craig Junior,” Popovich said.

“You did a great job, but I got to tell you – I’d rather have your dad standing here.”

Popovich then looked into the camera lens, giving a special message to his brightly dressed nemesis.

“Craig, we miss you. You’ve been an important part of all of this for a long time, doing a great job,” he said. “We want your fanny on the court, and I promise I’ll be nice. Get back here. Good luck.”

Then Popovich walked away, picking up the clipboard in San Antonio’s huddle, back to business. The Spurs came back to win, 90-85.