Pop The Rock Rolls Up On Win No. 900

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HANG TIME, Texas – It’s no wonder most NBA coaches are constantly moving on the sidelines. Theirs is a peripatetic lifestyle, usually with one hand gripping a suitcase and one foot out the door.

Among many other things about his worldly background and his puckish personality, it is his stability that makes Gregg Popovich unique.

With a win tonight at home against the Jazz (8:30 ET, League Pass), Popovich will become the 12th coach in NBA history to win 900 career games, but will be the first to claim each and every victory with a single team.

Over the past 17 seasons, the Spurs have been Pop as much as much as they have been David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and the other 130 players who have worn the silver and black uniform.

In a league that is teeming with exceptional coaches — Denver’s George Karl, Boston’s Doc Rivers, Minnesota’s Rick Adelman, Memphis’ Lionel Hollins, Dallas’ Rick Carlisle, Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau, Miami’s Erik Spoelstra – Popovich stands a step apart and above.

He is always the first and usually the last to tell you that it’s all about the players, but to a man, they will tell you he is the one whom they are all about in the way the prepare, work and attack every game and play.

When he sat at a makeshift table for a news conference last spring when he was named Coach of the Year for the second time in his career, Popovich’s face turned different shades of red. But it wasn’t for the usual reasons of screaming at a referee or boiling at another question from a reporter. He was, in short, embarrassed with the attention.

Pop’s Way. That’s what they call it around the executive offices and on the practice floor and in the locker room.

“It’s about us, not me,” he said, sheepish from the attention.

But year after year, season after season, it has been about him getting the most out of his team by being willing to change the pace of play — from slogging, powerful inside ball to Duncan to a microwave fastbreak that is sparked by Parker — but never his principles or his own personal style.

He just wears suits, doesn’t model them.

“They’re not Italian,” he told an inquiring mind years ago.

He doesn’t do TV commercials or endorsements.

“I refuse,” he said another time. “I’d rather spend time in other ways.”

Pat Riley, the Hall of Fame coach and stylist, once said the Spurs are “the most emotionally stable team in the league.”

That’s because it is a team in Popovich’s image. He picks the players, he builds the team, he molds them and has constructed a franchise that has always eschewed endearing to be enduring. It’s all added up to the best record in the Western Conference again, an NBA record 14 consecutive 50-win seasons, 16th straight trips to the playoffs and puts him on the doorstep of history, all in one place.

After 900 wins, Pop won’t be going anywhere but straight ahead.

THE 900 CLUB

Don Nelson

Record: 1,335-1,067 (.557)

Teams: Bucks (1976-87); Warriors (1988-95; 2006-10); Knicks (1995-96); Mavericks (1997-2005)

Championships: None

Coach of the Year: 1983, ’85, ’92

Inducted to Hall of Fame: 2012

Lenny Wilkens

Record: 1,332-1,155 (.536)

Teams: SuperSonics (1969-72, 1977-85); Trail Blazers (1974-76); Cavaliers (1986-93); Hawks (1993-2000); Raptors (2000-03); Knicks (2003-05)

Championships: Sonics — 1979

Coach of the Year: 1994

Inducted to Hall of Fame: 1998
(Inducted as player: 1989)

Jerry Sloan

Record: 1,221-803 (.603)

Teams: Bulls (1979-82); Jazz (1988-2011)

Championships: None

Coach of the Year: None

Inducted to Hall of Fame: 2009

Pat Riley

Record: 1,210-694 (.636)

Teams: Lakers (1981-90); Knicks (1991-95); Heat (1995-2003; 2005-08)

Championships: Lakers — 1982, ’85, ’87, ’88; Heat — 2006

Coach of the Year: 1990, ’93, ’97

Inducted to Hall of Fame: 2008

Phil Jackson

Record: 1,155-485 (.704)

Teams: Bulls (1989-98); Lakers (1999-2004; 2005-11)

Championships: Bulls — 1991, ’92, ’93, ’96, ’97, ’98; Lakers — 2000, ’01, ’02, ’09, ’10

Coach of the Year: 1996

Inducted to Hall of Fane: 2007

George Karl

Record: 1,121-753 (.598)

Teams: Cavaliers (1984-86); Warriors (1986-88); Sonics (1991-98); Bucks (1998-2003); Nuggets (2004-present)

Championships: None

Coach of the Year: None

Larry Brown

NBA record: 1,098-904 (.548)

Teams: Nuggets (1976-79); Nets (1981-83); Spurs (1988-92); Clippers (1992-93); Pacers (1993-97); 76ers (1997-2003); Pistons (2003-05); Knicks (2005-06); Bobcats (2009-11)

Championships: Pistons — 2004

Coach of the Year: 2001

Inducted to Hall of Fame: 2002

Rick Adelman

Record: 994-698 (.587)

Teams: Blazers (1988-94); Warriors (1995-97); Kings (1998-2006); Rockets (2007-11); Timberwolves (2011-present)

Championships: None

Coach of the Year: None

Bill Fitch

Record: 944-1,106 (.460)

Teams: Cavaliers (1970-79); Celtics (1979-83); Rockets (1983-88); Nets (1989-92); Clippers (1994-98)

Championships: Celtics — 1981

Coach of the Year: 1980

Red Auerbach

Record: 938-479 (.662)

Teams: Washington Capitols (1946-49); Tri-Cities Blackhawks (1949-50); Celtics (1950-66)

Championships: Celtics — 1957, ’59, ’60, ’61, ’62, ’63, ’64, ’65, ’66

Coach of the Year: 1965

Inducted to Hall of Fame: 1969

Dick Motta

Record: 935-1,017 (.479)

Teams: Bulls (1968-76); Bullets (1976-80); Mavericks (1980-87; 1994-96); Kings (1989-92); Nuggets (1996-97)

Championships: Bullets — 1978

Coach of the Year: 1971

14 Comments

  1. Marco29 says:

    900 wins is quite an achievement but most important are the Winning PCT and the championships and at these stats Pop ranks even higher on the list. He should be in the discussion for the top 3 with Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach and Pat Rilley.
    Pop has been a blessing for San Antonio and it is no wonder all 4 championships have been won with him on the bench and Duncan on the floor. His impact on the league s huge, just look at all the coaches and executives around the NBA that have played or coached with Pop, it’s amazing.
    I hope he will stay a few years more and win another title for SA.

  2. Julia says:

    I haven’t heard of “Pop” reportedly throwing basketball shoes at star players a la
    Sir Alex though. As Pat Riley states Spurs are more emotionally stable than Man Utd under Sir Alex

  3. Amer says:

    The NBA’s Sir Alex Ferguson. Pop should get knighted! Sir Gregg Popovic, it has a nice ring to it. Or 4 :3

  4. Yellermonkey says:

    Good article, and I love having Pop as the coach in San Antonio. His personality is indeed unique among the coaches, and I’d hate to ask a dumb question to him in a press conference. His players respect him, his record is amazing, and there’s no coach I’d rather see with the Spurs. My wife and I both get quite a kick out of his responses and reactions both during and after games.

    One thing was incorrect in this article, however, when stating: “He doesn’t do TV commercials or endorsements.”. I’ve seen Pop in various commercials, including some hilarious ones for HEB (like the recent grilled steaks commercial). So while he may prefer to spend his time doing other things, he still does the commercials from time to time anyway.

  5. lakerslakerslakers says:

    spolestra? what the hell has he done?

  6. Damian says:

    Great article. Lakers should have picked up Jerry Sloan

  7. W/E says:

    Pop is awesome.

  8. On the Money says:

    This is an interesting topic. 900 Club.
    Hard to believe that Jerry Sloan and George Karl have never won coach of the year. 2 of the best coaches in the league.
    Well done Pops for the soon to be reached 900, best in the business.

  9. crooner says:

    it takes a fanatic to love specific players, teams or even the nba. but it takes a basketball fan to appreciate what these coaches have done and accomplished.

    • Marco29 says:

      Yes, but in Pop’s case, it is hard to overlook the achievement. He has been the cornestone (with Duncan) of one of the most successfull franchises since the beginning of the century and he his the reason why the Spurs are a contender year after year while many have said they are too old and done since years. Congrats to the man!

  10. Chris says:

    Pop is the man! That military mind of his has really paid off too.

  11. ELISEO SORIANO OLDPATH says:

    this is a Great Article Mr. Fran… nice info.
    900 Clubs are great coaches…
    Hoping someday, Erik Spoelstra name will be included there…

    We Love NBA in the Philippines…
    -Daniel Razon Oldpath