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
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 (assistant)
1979–1986 Pomona-Pitzer
1986–1987 Kansas (volunteer asst.)
1987–1988 Pomona-Pitzer
19881992 San Antonio Spurs (assistant)
19921994 Golden State Warriors (assistant)
1996–present San Antonio Spurs
2016–present United States
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 San Antonio Spurs of the National Basketball Association (NBA). 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]

Popovich is considered one of the greatest coaches in NBA history. He is currently tied with Pat Riley (regular season only) with 19 consecutive winning seasons, behind Phil Jackson's 20.[3] He has won five NBA championships as a head coach (all with the Spurs), a feat achieved only by four others in NBA history (Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach, Pat Riley, and John Kundla).[3] He is also one of nine coaches to have won 1,000 NBA games.[3]

Early life and education

Popovich was born in East Chicago, Indiana on January 28, 1949, to a Serb father and Croat mother.[4] 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.[5]

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.

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.[6]


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) 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

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.[7] Rodman was not fond of Popovich, as Rodman said in his first book Bad As I Wanna Be.[8]

After the Spurs went 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 reduced roster, the Spurs struggled 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 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.

Popovich 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.[9]

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 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 that the Spurs' actions were "unacceptable," and "substantial sanctions [would] be forthcoming."[10] 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.[11] 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."[12]

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.[13] 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 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.[14]

In the 2016 basketball season, Popovich led the Spurs to a franchise high 67 wins, however he and the team lost in the second round of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Oklahoma City Thunder (4–2).

National team career

Popovich served on the coaching staff for the U.S. national team in the 2002 FIBA World Championship (assisting George Karl),[15] the 2003 FIBA America Men's Olympic Qualifying Tournament and the 2004 Olympic Games, where the U.S. won a bronze medal.

On October 23, 2015, Popovich was named as the next head coach of the U.S. national team. He will take over duties from current head coach Mike Krzyzewski after the 2016 Olympic Games.[16]

Head coaching record


Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens (Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) (1979–1986)
1979–80 Pomona-Pitzer 2–22 1–11 6th
1980–81 Pomona-Pitzer 10–15 3–9 6th
1981–82 Pomona-Pitzer 9–17 6–6
1982–83 Pomona-Pitzer 12–11 6–4
1983–84 Pomona-Pitzer 9–17 6–6
1984–85 Pomona-Pitzer 11–14 7–5
1985–86 Pomona-Pitzer 16–12 8–2 1st NCAA D-III Regional Fourth Place[17]
Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens (Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) (1987–1988)
1987–88 Pomona-Pitzer 7–19 4–6
Pomona-Pitzer: 76–129 41–49
Total: 76–129

      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 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 WL% Finish PG PW PL PWL% Result
San Antonio 1996–97 641747.2666th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
San Antonio 1997–98 825626.6832nd in Midwest945.444 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
San Antonio 1998–99 503713.7401st in Midwest17152.882 Won NBA Championship
San Antonio 1999–00 825329.6462nd in Midwest413.250 Lost in First Round
San Antonio 2000–01 825824.7071st in Midwest1376.538 Lost in Conf. Finals
San Antonio 2001–02 825824.7071st in Midwest1046.400 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
San Antonio 2002–03 826022.7321st in Midwest24168.667 Won NBA Championship
San Antonio 2003–04 825725.6952nd in Midwest1064.600 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
San Antonio 2004–05 825923.7201st in Southwest23167.696 Won NBA Championship
San Antonio 2005–06 826319.7681st in Southwest1376.538 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
San Antonio 2006–07 825824.7072nd in Southwest20164.800 Won NBA Championship
San Antonio 2007–08 825626.6832nd in Southwest1798.529 Lost in Conf. Finals
San Antonio 2008–09 825428.6591st in Southwest514.200 Lost in First Round
San Antonio 2009–10 825032.6102nd in Southwest1046.400 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
San Antonio 2010–11 826121.7441st in Southwest624.333 Lost in First Round
San Antonio 2011–12 665016.7581st in Southwest14104.714 Lost in Conf. Finals
San Antonio 2012–13 825824.7071st in Southwest21156.714 Lost in NBA Finals
San Antonio 2013–14 826220.7561st in Southwest23167.696 Won NBA Championship
San Antonio 2014–15 825527.6713rd in Southwest734.429 Lost in First Round
San Antonio 2015–16 826715.8171st in Southwest1064.600 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Career 1,5741,089485.692 25615898.617

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. 1 2 3 "Gregg Popovich Named 2017–20 USA National Team Head Coach". USA Basketball. 2015-10-23. Retrieved 2016-02-11.
  4. Wojnarowski, Adrian (10 June 2007). "'Pop' art". Yahoo! Sports. Sometimes, you get the idea that Popovich is fighting a war within himself. "He's even got the Serbo-Croatian conflict going on," Buford said. "His mother was Croatian and his father was Serbian. That's the battle he faces internally."
  5. "Popovich is a man of mystery. National Post". National Post. 15 June 2007.
  6. "Gregg Popovich honored at Air Force Academy". KOAA. 4 April 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-12-01.
  7. PRO BASKETBALL;Unhappy Rodman Is Dealt From Spurs to the Bulls. New York Times, 1995-10-03
  8. Rodman, Dennis (1996), Bad as I Wanna Be, Delacorte Press, p. 85
  9. Official Release. "Spurs' Popovich named Coach of the Year".
  10. David Stern: Sanctions coming. ESPN, 2012-11-30.
  11. Spurs fined $250,000 for 'disservice'. ESPN, 2012-11-30.
  12. Adrian Wojnarowski (2012-11-30). "David Stern stumbles again in his failed culture war against the Spurs, fines franchise $250K". Retrieved 2016-10-02.
  13. "Spurs' Gregg Popovich named 2013–14 Coach of the Year". Retrieved 2016-10-02.
  14. "NBA stars, legends shine as Team World rallies to beat Team Africa". 2015-08-01. Retrieved 2016-10-02.
  15. 2002 USA Basketball Archived July 14, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  16. "Gregg Popovich Named 2017–20 USA National Team Head Coach". USA Basketball. October 23, 2015. Retrieved October 24, 2015.
  17. "1986 Division III men's basketball tournament". D3hoops. Retrieved 2016-10-02.

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