Thomas Winkler understands what the San Antonio Spurs went through in 2013.

In his second season as Gatesville’s head boys basketball coach, Winkler suffered an agonizing heartbreak, losing to Lampasas 47-45 in overtime of the second-to-last game of the season.

Much like San Antonio came agonizingly close to winning a championship last season, the defeat was bitter, preventing the Hornets from reaching the postseason.

A longtime Spurs fan, however, Winkler hopes to use the experience as motivation for next year — just like San Antonio did en route to the 2014 NBA championship, beating Miami 4-1 in the NBA Finals. Along the way, he hopes his players will pick up some of the habits displayed by his beloved team.

Winkler recently spoke to Herald reporter Clay Whittington about the Spurs’ impressive run to the championship and how it could help his team next season.

So, being a Spurs fan, I’m assuming you’re pretty happy right now.

Oh yeah, very happy. I’m a huge Spurs fan, so that was a perfect ending for me. I didn’t get to make it down to the parade or anything like that because my son had practice, so I had to take him to that.

Was that how you expected the Finals to play out?

I didn’t see them winning it in five games. I really thought the Spurs were going to win the series, but I kind of thought it was an everybody-wins-at-home series. I thought Miami would put up a little more of a fight than that at home.

How surprised were you that it was that easy for San Antonio?

I was kind of shocked. I’m not a Heat fan, but I know they are a pretty solid team, but when you move the ball as well as the Spurs did and shoot it as well as they did, that is hard for anybody to handle — even one of the best teams in the NBA. When you are shooting that well, it is tough on people.

Everybody seemed to gush over the Spurs’ style of play. As a coach, is that how you want your team to play?

That is exactly how I want my kids playing. In fact, even before that series, during the season, I was referencing the Spurs in practice, telling my guys, “Hey, this is what we are trying to do. Watch the Spurs. Watch how they move the ball. Honestly, I think that is how any coach would want his team to play — completely unselfish. Gregg Popovich is saying pass up the good shot for a great one, give up a good shot for a great shot, and that’s what we try to stress. I would love for my guys to play it that well.

Have you ever found yourself referencing a team like that before during practice?

The Spurs are probably the only group I’ve ever done that with. I don’t remember referencing anybody else. I think the Spurs are the only team in the league where you hear people say, “They play Spurs basketball.” You don’t hear people say, “Well, that’s Miami Heat basketball” or “That’s Dallas Mavericks basketball.” But you hear about Spurs basketball.

To me, that’s the only team that is said about.

Contact Clay Whittington at

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