Dennis Rodman Tore Gregg Popovich to Shreds After Getting Traded by the Spurs: ‘Mr. Military Was Going to Make Me a Good Little Boy’

Dennis Rodman‘s career, at least on the court, was largely defined by five championships with the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons and the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls. But in between his tenures with those two organizations, the Worm played two seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, one of which came under general manager and vice president of basketball operations Gregg Popovich.

Rodman’s elite rebounding with the Spurs was canceled out by conflicts with the team and staff. Shortly after getting traded to Chicago, the eccentric Hall of Famer released a book that touched on his Spurs tenure — specifically, how he took issue with Pop’s words and actions.

Dennis Rodman had a tumultuous two seasons with the San Antonio Spurs

Following a seven-year run with the Pistons, easily his longest tenure with any one team, Rodman was dealt to the Spurs ahead of the 1993-94 season. The two-time All-Star was set to join Hall of Famer David Robinson in the frontcourt of a Spurs franchise fresh off four straight playoff exits.

San Antonio got the full Rodman, both the good and bad.

Dennis the Menace led the league in rebounding for back-to-back seasons despite coming off of the bench for 51 of his 128 regular-season contests. He also helped the Spurs reach the Western Conference Finals in 1994-95, their first appearance since 1982-83.

However, things went south fast in Texas. Along with earning multiple suspensions, Rodman missed considerable time in year two due to a shoulder injury suffered in a motorcycle accident. He was also critical of head coach Bob Hill and his teammates as a whole, as Hill once explained on The Whistle Stop Podcast.

“I kind of wanted to know his attitude about the team. I went right down the roster and I just listened. What about Avery Johnson? What about David Robinson? He killed every player on the team,” Hill explained. “He said, ‘This team is soft and they’ll never win big games. David Robinson is overpaid and he’ll never make a big shot.'”

“Dennis was not a bad guy. I really enjoyed him.” Hill continued. “I mean we had two knockdowns, drag-out, manager, umpire, fights, spit-flying, and we had to suspend him at one point.”

Rodman crushed Gregg Popovich in a book released soon after his trade from San Antonio

Former San Antonio Spurs forward Dennis Rodman and Gregg Popovich side-by-side.
Dennis Rodman (L) and Gregg Popovich (R) of the San Antonio Spurs. | Mitchell Layton/Getty Images | Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images

Before becoming the legendary head coach basketball fans know and love today, Popovich was strictly the Spurs’ front-office boss. Pop was a Spurs assistant coach for four years and a Golden State Warriors assistant for another two years before becoming San Antonio’s GM and VP of basketball operations in 1994-95, Rodman’s second season with the team.

In 1996, less than a year after his trade to Chicago, Rodman released his book Bad as I Wanna Be. Within the book, Dennis bashed the young, power-hungry GM Popovich.

“The biggest problem in San Antonio was Gregg Popovich, the general manager,” Rodman wrote. “He wanted to be the coach and the general manager. He stood around and held Bob Hill’s hand every day, saying, ‘Okay, you’ve got to do this now. It’s time for you to listen to me.’ If Hill didn’t do it, Popovich would jump his a**, and so HIll would turn around and jump somebody else’s a**. S*** flows downhill, and it seemed like I was always at the bottom.”

Rodman then explained how his problems were less with Hill and more with Pop.

“Popovich wanted to be the guy who tamed Dennis Rodman, and he tried to use Hill to do his dirty work. That was Popovich’s big challenge. Mr. Military was going to make me a good little boy, a good soldier. He lost sight of everything else, and then when he decided he couldn’t do anything with me, he badmouthed me and gave me away for next to nothing. Then he pretended it was good for the team.”

Dennis Rodman

After a disappointing Western Conference Finals performance, Popovich sent the Worm to the Bulls in a straight-up trade for Will Perdue. Whether Dennis’ take on Pop is accurate, we can confirm that San Antonio’s return was, in fact, next to nothing.

Both Rodman and Popovich found success without one another

Say what you want about the Rodman/Pop pairing, but the Spurs were successful in their one year together. Granted, an MVP season from Robinson didn’t hurt. But it’s hard to argue with a 62-20 record, the best in the NBA, as well as a WCF appearance.

Still, it’s obvious that both legends were far better off without the other stressing them out.

With Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Phil Jackson, Rodman’s off-the-court antics weren’t enough to prevent another three rebounding titles and three additional championships. This gave the two-time Defensive Player of the Year seven total rebounding titles and five rings in his memorable 14-year career.

As for Popovich, there may have been something to Rodman’s claims about him wanting to become the head coach. Following a 3-15 start in 1996-97, Pop fired Hill and appointed himself as the new man in charge. Three years later, he led San Antonio to its first NBA Finals victory, one of five he’d go on to win in the Alamo. Additionally, the unorthodox 73-year-old recently earned his 1,336th win, becoming the all-time winningest coach in league history.

It’s possible that Popovich’s poor handling of Rodman made him realize the types of players he needed to fill his team with. It’s also likely that no coach or GM was going to be able to control Dennis the Menace.

While the drama would have been juicy, be glad we didn’t see these two work together for more than a single season.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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