1-on-1 with Popovich: Spurs head coach opens training camp at USAFA

Academy cadets reach out to shake hands with Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich before the start of the team's practice Wednesday at Clune Arena. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Kenneth Bellard)

Academy cadets reach out to shake hands with Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich before the start of the team's practice Wednesday at Clune Arena. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Kenneth Bellard)

Spurs star forward Tim Duncan (second from left) goes up for a shot during Wednesday evening's practice session at Clune Arena. The Spurs opened their training camp here Oct. 1. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Kenneth Bellard)

Spurs star forward Tim Duncan (second from left) goes up for a shot during Wednesday evening's practice session at Clune Arena. The Spurs opened their training camp here Oct. 1. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Kenneth Bellard)

The Falcon women's basketball team gather for pictures with Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili after the Spurs practice session in Clune Arena. (U.S. Air Force Photo/1st Lt. Brandon Baccam)

The Falcon women's basketball team gather for pictures with Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili after the Spurs practice session in Clune Arena. (U.S. Air Force Photo/1st Lt. Brandon Baccam)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Greg Popovich, head coach for the San Antonio Spurs, brought his team to the Air Force's Academy for a four-day training camp beginning Tuesday.

A 1970 Academy graduate, Popovich returned to his alma mater with the hope that a fresh setting would strengthen the team bonding.

"I thought that it would be a great change for us to go to a completely different venue," Popovich said. "I thought the altitude would be great for training."

The four-time NBA champion head coach said that his players relished at the beautiful sights upon arriving here and were eager to see what the Academy was all about.

"More than anything, our guys are having fun observing the cadets and seeing what they go through," Popovich said.

The cadets were treated to a Wednesday night practice session open exclusively for them to attend and watch.

"It's awesome that they're here," said Cadet 4th Class Alex Lee.

Popovich is a former Falcon basketball player and assistant coach for the Falcon men's basketball team. His return to the Academy brought back many memories from his days as a cadet.

Popovich said that he remembered receiving his prop and wings as being one of his best memories.

"To this day, I have my prop and wings in my study at home," he said. "That was very special to me. I still remember Cadet 3rd Class Jesse Beaver giving me (those) wings."

Bringing the Spurs to Colorado Springs to start their training camp was a "win-win" decision for everyone on the team, Popovich said.

"For me at this point, I'm getting the largest kick out of watching my players react to everything they see," he said.

In addition to their training, the Spurs took a tour of Jacks Valley and ran the Basic Cadet Training obstacle course.

"It was the most unexpected experience that they've had to date in their lives according to many of them," Popovich said. "They've talked about it incessantly since we've done it."

The Spurs opened camp fresh off of their NBA Finals loss to the Miami Heat last season. Popovich said that cadets can learn from the Spurs experiences to help them with the challenges they face here.

"If a loss in a certain situation or a tough break in life occurs, a real measure of that individual is how he or she moves on from it," he said.

The team finishes their camp at the Academy today.