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Gregg Popovich

Gregg Popovich
Popovich in March 2011, during his tenure with the San Antonio Spurs.
San Antonio Spurs
Position Head coach / President of Basketball Operations
League NBA
Personal information
Born (1949-01-28) January 28, 1949 (age 67)
East Chicago, Indiana
Nationality American
Career information
High school Merrillville (Merrillville, Indiana)
College Air Force (1966–1970)
Coaching career 1973–present
Career history
As coach:
1973–1979 Air Force (NCAA I) (assistant)
1979–1987 Pomona-Pitzer (NCAA III)
19881992 San Antonio Spurs (assistant)
1992 Golden State Warriors (assistant)
1996–present San Antonio Spurs
Career highlights and awards

As head coach:

Gregg Charles Popovich (born January 28, 1949) is an American basketball coach who is currently the head coach of the National Basketball Association's San Antonio Spurs. Taking over as coach of the Spurs in 1996, Popovich is the longest tenured active coach in both the NBA and all US major sports leagues. He is often referred to as "Coach Pop" or simply "Pop".[1][2] He holds the record for most consecutive winning seasons (playoffs included) in NBA history at 18, and third all time for the regular season, behind Pat Riley with 19, and Phil Jackson with 20. Popovich has won five NBA championships as the head coach of the Spurs. Along with Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach, Pat Riley, and John Kundla, he is one of only five coaches in NBA history to win five or more NBA championships. He is also one of 9 coaches in NBA history to have won 1,000 NBA games. Achievements such as these are what garnered him recognition as one of the greatest basketball head coaches of all time.

Early life and education

Popovich was born in East Chicago, Indiana on January 28, 1949, to a Serbian father and Croatian mother.[3] He started his basketball career playing Biddy Basketball and was on the 1960 Gary Biddy Basketball All-Star Team which finished third in the World Tournament, held at Gary's Memorial Auditorium. He attended Merrillville High School and graduated in 1970 from the United States Air Force Academy. He played basketball for four seasons at the Academy and in his senior year was the team captain and the leading scorer. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Soviet Studies, and he underwent Air Force intelligence gathering and processing training. At one point, Popovich considered a career with the Central Intelligence Agency.[4]

Popovich served five years of required active duty in the United States Air Force, during which he toured Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union with the U.S. Armed Forces Basketball Team. In 1972, he was selected as captain of the Armed Forces Team, which won the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) championship. This earned him an invitation to the 1972 U.S. Olympic Basketball Team trials.

Popovich returned to the Air Force Academy as an assistant coach in 1973 under head coach Hank Egan, a position he held for six years. Egan would later become an assistant coach under Popovich for the San Antonio Spurs, and later an assistant coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers under Mike Brown.

During his time with the coaching staff of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Popovich attended the University of Denver and earned his master's degree in physical education and sports sciences. In 1979, he was named the head basketball coach of Pomona-Pitzer's men's team. Popovich coached Pomona-Pitzer men's basketball from 1979 to 1988, leading the team to its first outright title in 68 years.

During his time as head coach at Pomona-Pitzer, Popovich became a disciple and later a close friend of head coach Larry Brown at the University of Kansas. Popovich took off the 1985–1986 season at Pomona-Pitzer to become a volunteer assistant at Kansas, where he could study directly under Brown. Popovich returned to Pomona-Pitzer and resumed his duties as head coach the next season.

On April 4, 2008, Popovich returned to the U.S. Air Force Academy to receive the Academy's award of Distinguished Graduate. Despite his four NBA titles at the time, Popovich said it was the most meaningful award he had ever received.[5]


Following the 1987–88 season, Popovich joined Larry Brown as the lead assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs. From 1988 to 1992, Popovich was the top assistant under Brown, before the entire staff (including R. C. Buford, Alvin Gentry and Ed Manning) was fired by owner Red McCombs. Popovich moved to the Golden State Warriors for a brief stint in 1992, serving as an assistant under future Hall of Famer Don Nelson and bringing with him Avery Johnson, who had been cut by the Spurs.

San Antonio

File:Pop sitting down.JPG
Popovich in 2010

In 1994, Popovich returned to San Antonio as the general manager and Vice President of Basketball Operations after current owner Peter Holt purchased the team. Popovich's first move was to sign Avery Johnson to become the team's starting point guard. Another one of Popovich's early moves in San Antonio was to trade Dennis Rodman to the Chicago Bulls for Will Perdue.[6] Rodman was not fond of Popovich, as he said in his first book Bad As I Wanna Be.[7]

After the Spurs got out to a 3-15 start in the 1996-97 season, with David Robinson sidelined with a preseason back injury, Popovich fired coach Bob Hill and named himself head coach. However, Robinson broke his foot after only six games and was lost for the season. Sean Elliott was also limited to 39 games due to injury, and Chuck Person and Vinny Del Negro also missed significant time. With a decimated roster, the Spurs were a rudderless team, and won only 17 games for the remainder of the season for an overall record of 20-62. However, the Spurs' disastrous season allowed them to win the first overall pick in the NBA Lottery, which they used to draft Tim Duncan out of Wake Forest University. The Spurs blossomed as 6'11" Duncan teamed up with the 7'1" David Robinson to give them a "Twin Tower" offense and defense for several years. After recovering to win 56 games in Duncan's rookie year—and Popovich's first full year as coach—the Spurs came all the way back in 1999 to win their first NBA title.

In 2002, Popovich relinquished his position as general manager to R. C. Buford, who had served as the team's head scout. Popovich and Buford both got their starts in the NBA in 1988 as assistants on Brown's coaching staff with the Spurs.

Popovich has won five championships with the Spurs--19992003, 2005, 2007 and 2014. Popovich was named NBA Coach of the Year in 2003, 2012, and in 2014.

He earned his 500th career victory on March 2, 2006, becoming the fourth-fastest coach in NBA history to reach that milestone. He led the team to a 63–19 season in 2006, which set a new franchise season record.

Popovich won his 100th playoff game on May 19, 2008, in a road game against the New Orleans Hornets. The win tied him for third place in all-time playoff coaching victories with his friend and mentor, Larry Brown.

On May 2, 2012, Popovich won his second coach of the year award for the 2011–12 NBA season.[8]

On November 29, 2012, Popovich sat out starters Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Danny Green for a nationally televised game against the Miami Heat. Popovich has frequently sat out his starters on road trips over the years in order to ensure they have enough rest for the playoffs; the Spurs are one of the oldest teams in the league. NBA commissioner David Stern was outraged when he learned of this, and said on the night of the game the Spurs' actions were "unacceptable," and "substantial sanctions [would] be forthcoming."[9] On November 30, Stern fined the Spurs $250,000 for what he called "a disservice to the league and the fans." According to Stern, Popovich had not informed the Heat, the league or the media in a suitable timeframe that the four players were not making the trip to Miami.[10] Stern's decision was criticized by commentators such as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, who said, "Stern doesn't care about the realities of his league, just the appearances. To him, the appearance on Thursday night was that Popovich had tried to embarrass him on national television and that's why the commissioner tossed that tantrum."[11]

On March 22, 2013, Popovich became the second head coach in NBA history to win 900 regular-season games with one team when the Spurs beat the Utah Jazz.

Popovich led the Spurs to the 2013 NBA Finals to face the Miami Heat. The series lasted seven games, but the Spurs lost the series to give Popovich his first Finals loss of his coaching career.

On April 22, 2014, Popovich was awarded the Red Auerbach Trophy as he won the NBA Coach of the Year for the third time in his career.[12] He would also win his fifth NBA championship with the San Antonio Spurs that same season, beating the Miami Heat 4-1 in the Finals. Popovich's record in the Finals is 5-1.

On February 9, 2015, Popovich became the 9th coach in NBA history to win 1,000 games when the Spurs defeated the Indiana Pacers 95-93. He and Jerry Sloan are the only 2 coaches in NBA history to win 1,000 games with one franchise.

International basketball

Popovich served on the coaching staff for the U.S. national team in the 2002 FIBA World Championship (assisting George Karl),[13] the 2003 FIBA America Men's Olympic Qualifying Tournament and the 2004 Olympic Games, where the U.S. won a bronze medal.

Head coaching record

Regular season G Games coached W Games won L Games lost W–L % Win-loss %
Post season PG Playoff games PW Playoff wins PL Playoff losses PW–L % Playoff win-loss %
Team Year G W L W–L% Finish PG PW PL PW–L% Result
SAS 1996–97 64 17 47 .266 6th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
SAS 1997–98 82 56 26 .683 2nd in Midwest 9 4 5 .444 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
SAS 1998–99 50 37 13 .740 1st in Midwest 17 15 2 .882 Won NBA Championship
SAS 1999–00 82 53 29 .646 2nd in Midwest 4 1 3 .250 Lost in First Round
SAS 2000–01 82 58 24 .707 1st in Midwest 13 7 6 .538 Lost in Conf. Finals
SAS 2001–02 82 58 24 .707 1st in Midwest 10 4 6 .400 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
SAS 2002–03 82 60 22 .732 1st in Midwest 24 16 8 .667 Won NBA Championship
SAS 2003–04 82 57 25 .695 2nd in Midwest 10 6 4 .600 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
SAS 2004–05 82 59 23 .720 1st in Southwest 23 16 7 .696 Won NBA Championship
SAS 2005–06 82 63 19 .768 1st in Southwest 13 7 6 .538 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
SAS 2006–07 82 58 24 .707 2nd in Southwest 20 16 4 .800 Won NBA Championship
SAS 2007–08 82 56 26 .683 2nd in Southwest 17 9 8 .529 Lost in Conf. Finals
SAS 2008–09 82 54 28 .659 1st in Southwest 5 1 4 .200 Lost in First Round
SAS 2009–10 82 50 32 .610 2nd in Southwest 10 4 6 .400 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
SAS 2010–11 82 61 21 .744 1st in Southwest 6 2 4 .333 Lost in First Round
SAS 2011–12 66 50 16 .758 1st in Southwest 14 10 4 .714 Lost in Conf. Finals
SAS 2012–13 82 58 24 .707 1st in Southwest 21 15 6 .714 Lost in NBA Finals
SAS 2013–14 82 62 20 .756 1st in Southwest 23 16 7 .696 Won NBA Championship
SAS 2014–15 82 55 27 .671 3rd in Southwest 7 3 4 .429 Lost in First Round
Career 1492 1022 470 .685 246 152 94 .618

See also


  1. ^ Wetzel, Dan (2007-06-14). "French connection". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved 2008-04-17. 
  2. ^ "Devin Brown And Coach Pop Spread Message To Local Youth". 2004-02-01. Retrieved 2008-03-05. 
  3. ^ Wojnarowski, Adrian (10 June 2007). "'Pop' art". Yahoo! Sports ( 
  4. ^ Popovich is a man of mystery. National Post, June 15, 2007.
  5. ^ Gregg Popovich honored at Air Force Academy. 04 April 2008. KOAA.
  6. ^ PRO BASKETBALL;Unhappy Rodman Is Dealt From Spurs to the Bulls. New York Times, 1995-10-03
  7. ^ Rodman, Dennis (1996), Bad as I Wanna Be, Delacorte Press, p. 85 
  8. ^ Official Release. "Spurs' Popovich named Coach of the Year". 
  9. ^ David Stern: Sanctions coming. ESPN, 2012-11-30.
  10. ^ Spurs fined $250,000 for 'disservice'. ESPN, 2012-11-30.
  11. ^ David Stern stumbles again in his failed culture war against the Spurs, fines franchise $250K
  12. ^ Spurs' Gregg Popovich named 2013-14 Coach of the Year
  13. ^ 2002 USA Basketball

External links