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Gregg Popovich

Gregg Popovich

Gregg Charles Popovich (born January 28, 1949) is an American professional basketball coach and general manager. He is the head coach and President of the San Antonio Spurs of the National Basketball Association (NBA), and head coach of USA national team. Taking over as coach of the Spurs in 1996, Popovich is the longest tenured active coach in both the NBA and all major sports leagues in the United States. He is often called "Coach Pop" or simply "Pop."[1][2]

Popovich has the most wins in NBA history (regular season and playoffs), surpassing Lenny Wilkens and Don Nelson on April 13, 2019. He has led the Spurs to a winning record in each of his 22 full seasons as head coach, surpassing Phil Jackson for the most consecutive winning seasons in NBA history. During his tenure, the Spurs have had a winning record against every other NBA team. Popovich has led the Spurs to all five of their NBA titles, and is one of only five coaches in NBA history to win five titles.[3][4]

Gregg Popovich
San Antonio Spurs
PositionHead coach
Personal information
Born(1949-01-28)January 28, 1949
East Chicago, Indiana
Career information
High schoolMerrillville (Merrillville, Indiana)
CollegeAir Force (1966–1970)
Coaching career1973–present
Career history
As coach:
1973–1979Air Force (assistant)
1986–1987Kansas (assistant)
1988–1992San Antonio Spurs (assistant)
1992–1994Golden State Warriors (assistant)
1996–presentSan Antonio Spurs
Career highlights and awards
As head coach:
  • 5× NBA champion (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2014)
  • 3× NBA Coach of the Year (2003, 2012, 2014)
  • 4× NBA All-Star Game head coach (2005, 2011, 2013, 2016)

Early life and education

Popovich was born in East Chicago, Indiana, on January 28, 1949, to a Serbian father and a Croatian mother.[5][6] He started his basketball career playing Biddy Basketball and was on the 1960 Gary Biddy Basketball All-Star Team that 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.[7] He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Soviet Studies, and underwent Air Force intelligence training.[8] He later earned a master's degree in physical education and sports sciences at the University of Denver.[9] At one point, Popovich considered a career with the Central Intelligence Agency.[10][11]

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.[11] 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.[12]

Coaching career

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 later became an assistant coach under Popovich for the San Antonio Spurs.

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 1985–86 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.

Following the 1987–88 season, Popovich joined Brown as the lead assistant coach for the Spurs. From 1988 to 1992, Popovich was Brown's top assistant, until the entire staff, including R. C. Buford, Alvin Gentry and Ed Manning, were 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 Spurs (1996–present)

Gregg Popovich in 2010

Gregg Popovich in 2010

Popovich interview by David Aldridge

Popovich interview by David Aldridge

Coach Popovich during a regular season game in 2011

Coach Popovich during a regular season game in 2011

In 1994, Popovich returned to San Antonio as the general manager and Vice President of Basketball Operations after Peter Holt purchased the team. Popovich's first move was to sign Avery Johnson as 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.[13] Rodman was not fond of Popovich, as Rodman said in his first book Bad As I Wanna Be.[14]

After the Spurs had 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. Robinson then 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 missed the entire season. With a reduced roster that included an aging Dominique Wilkins, the Spurs struggled and won only 17 games for the remainder of the season for an overall record of 20–62. The Spurs' disastrous season allowed them the first overall pick in the 1997 NBA draft, which they used to draft Tim Duncan out of Wake Forest University.

The Spurs blossomed as the 6'11" Duncan teamed up with the 7'1" Robinson in a "Twin Tower" offense and defense for several years. After recovering to win 56 games in 1997-1998 (Popovich's first full year as coach), the Spurs won their first NBA title in 1999.

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 were both given 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—1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014. He was named NBA Coach of the Year in 2003, 2012, and 2014.

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.[15]

On May 2, 2012, Popovich won his second Coach of the Year Award for the 2011–12 NBA season.[16]

On November 29, 2012, Popovich sat out starters Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginóbili, 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 to ensure they have enough rest for the playoffs; the Spurs' roster was among the oldest in the league. NBA commissioner David Stern was outraged by this and said on the night of the game that it was "unacceptable," and "substantial sanctions [would] be forthcoming."[17] 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 time frame that the four players were not making the trip to Miami.[18] 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."[19]

Popovich led the Spurs to the 2013 NBA Finals to face the Miami Heat. The series lasted seven games, but the Spurs had their first ever Finals loss.

On April 22, 2014, Popovich was awarded the Red Auerbach Trophy as he won the NBA Coach of the Year for the third time.[20] He also won his fifth NBA championship with San Antonio that season, beating the Heat 4–1 in the Finals.

On February 9, 2015, Popovich became the ninth 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 two coaches in NBA history to win 1,000 games with one franchise.

On August 1, 2015, Popovich served as Team Africa's head coach at the 2015 NBA Africa exhibition game.[21]

In the 2015–16 season, Popovich led the Spurs to a franchise high 67 wins, but he and the team lost in the conference semifinals against the Oklahoma City Thunder in six games.

On February 4, 2017, Popovich recorded his 1,128th win with one franchise, surpassing Sloan.[22]

On April 13, 2019, Popovich surpassed Lenny Wilkens and became the all-time winningest coach in NBA history with his 1,413th win.[23]

National team career

Popovich served on the coaching staff for the U.S. national team during the 2002 FIBA World Championship (assisting George Karl),[24] during the 2003 FIBA America Men's Olympic Qualifying Tournament, and during the 2004 Olympic Games, where the U.S. won a bronze medal.

On October 23, 2015, Popovich was named head coach of the U.S. men's national team, taking over from Mike Krzyzewski after the 2016 Olympic Games.[25]

Personal life

Popovich with Secretary of Defense William Cohen and Spurs' player David Robinson speaks at Junior ROTC cadets from local high schools.

Popovich with Secretary of Defense William Cohen and Spurs' player David Robinson speaks at Junior ROTC cadets from local high schools.

On multiple occasions, Popovich has spoken out on behalf of social justice issues, including in support of the Women's March. He has also repeatedly criticized the behavior of President Donald Trump.[26][27][28][8][29] Popovich was married to Erin Popovich until her death on April 18, 2018; the couple had two children.[30]

Humanitarian work

Popovich has spent considerable time and money working with several charities and nonprofits the likes of San Antonio Food Bank and Innocence Project. He also took part in Shoes That Fit, an organization that aims to deliver shoes to more than 200 students at Gates Elementary School affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.[31] Popovich is helping raise funds for J/P HRO, a disaster relief program that operates in Haiti, and various disaster relief organizations in the U.S. and Caribbean.[32]

Head coaching record


Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens (Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) (1979–1986)
1985–86Pomona-Pitzer16–128–21stNCAA D-III Regional Fourth Place[33]
Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens (Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) (1987–1988)
 National champion   Postseason invitational champion  
 Conference regular season champion   Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
 Division regular season champion Division regular season and conference tournament champion
 Conference tournament champion


Regular seasonGGames coachedWGames wonLGames lostW–L %Win–loss %
PlayoffsPGPlayoff gamesPWPlayoff winsPLPlayoff lossesPW–L %Playoff win–loss %
San Antonio1996–97641747.2666th in MidwestMissed playoffs
San Antonio1997–98825626.6832nd in Midwest945.444Lost in Conference Semifinals
San Antonio1998–99503713.7401st in Midwest17152.882Won NBA Championship
San Antonio1999–00825329.6462nd in Midwest413.250Lost in First Round
San Antonio2000–01825824.7071st in Midwest1376.538Lost in Conference Finals
San Antonio2001–02825824.7071st in Midwest1046.400Lost in Conference Semifinals
San Antonio2002–03826022.7321st in Midwest24168.667Won NBA Championship
San Antonio2003–04825725.6952nd in Midwest1064.600Lost in Conference Semifinals
San Antonio2004–05825923.7201st in Southwest23167.696Won NBA Championship
San Antonio2005–06826319.7681st in Southwest1376.538Lost in Conference Semifinals
San Antonio2006–07825824.7072nd in Southwest20164.800Won NBA Championship
San Antonio2007–08825626.6832nd in Southwest1798.529Lost in Conference Finals
San Antonio2008–09825428.6591st in Southwest514.200Lost in First Round
San Antonio2009–10825032.6102nd in Southwest1046.400Lost in Conference Semifinals
San Antonio2010–11826121.7441st in Southwest624.333Lost in First Round
San Antonio2011–12665016.7581st in Southwest14104.714Lost in Conference Finals
San Antonio2012–13825824.7071st in Southwest21156.714Lost in NBA Finals
San Antonio2013–14826220.7561st in Southwest23167.696Won NBA Championship
San Antonio2014–15825527.6713rd in Southwest734.429Lost in First Round
San Antonio2015–16826715.8171st in Southwest1064.600Lost in Conference Semifinals
San Antonio2016–17826121.7441st in Southwest1688.500Lost in Conference Finals
San Antonio2017–18824735.5733rd in Southwest514.200Lost in First Round
San Antonio2018–19824834.5852nd in Southwest734.429Lost in First Round

See also

  • List of NBA championship head coaches

  • [[INLINE_IMAGE|//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/79/Map_of_USA_and_Canada%2C_NBA%2C_zoom.svg/32px-Map_of_USA_and_Canada%2C_NBA%2C_zoom.svg.png|//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/79/Map_of_USA_and_Canada%2C_NBA%2C_zoom.svg/48px-Map_of_USA_and_Canada%2C_NBA%2C_zoom.svg.png 1.5x, //upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/79/Map_of_USA_and_Canada%2C_NBA%2C_zoom.svg/64px-Map_of_USA_and_Canada%2C_NBA%2C_zoom.svg.png 2x|Map of USA and Canada, NBA, zoom.svg|h23|w32|noviewer]] National Basketball Association portal


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Citation Linkbooks.google.ltAssociation, National Basketball Conditioning Coaches (2007). Complete Conditioning for Basketball. Human Kinetics. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-7360-5784-4.
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Citation Linkwww.nytimes.comPRO BASKETBALL;Unhappy Rodman Is Dealt From Spurs to the Bulls. New York Times, October 3, 1995
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