Gregg Popovich gives heartfelt in-game interview on anniversary of Craig Sager's death

Gregg Popovich, left, giving an interview with late TNT reporter Craig Sager, who died a year ago on Friday.

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is universally lauded as one of the great coaches and most consistent winners the NBA has ever seen.

But even more than his accolades from the bench, he may be best known for his grumpy demeanor and terse encounters with reporters.

He’s at his best (or worst) for in-game sideline interviews that he so openly (and accurately) mocks as trite and worthless for all parties involved; rarely is anything of value provided for the coach, the media outlet or the viewers.

But he always had a special dynamic with late TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager, who died a year ago Friday following a battle with cancer. Which is why his interview during Thursday’s Rockets-Spurs broadcast with ESPN’s Israel Gutierrez provided something beyond the usual laugh at the media’s expense.

It’s rare for Popovich to treat the in-game interview with any amount of respect, and it’s become a bit of an unspoken agreement that he and his interviewers are just going to through the motions for the mandated segments.

But on the rare occasions he has given more than a terse response, it was usually when Sager was manning the sidelines. His genuine respect for the talented, flamboyant reporter always made the segment much-watch whenever the two were working the same game.

It’s only fitting that he let his guard down with Gutierrez Friday night.