Popovich in March 2011, during his tenure with the San Antonio Spurs.
|San Antonio Spurs|
January 28, 1949 |
East Chicago, Indiana
|High school||Merrillville (Merrillville, Indiana)|
|College||Air Force (1966–1970)|
|1973–1979||Air Force (NCAA I) (assistant)|
|1979–1987||Pomona-Pitzer (NCAA III)|
|1988–1992||San Antonio Spurs (assistant)|
|1992||Golden State Warriors (assistant)|
|1996–present||San Antonio Spurs|
|Career highlights and awards|
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 Big Four sports leagues. He is often referred to as "Coach Pop" or simply "Pop". He has won five NBA championships as the head coach of the Spurs. He also has the most consecutive winning seasons (playoffs included) of any NBA coach, at 17. Popovich is one of only five coaches in NBA history to win five or more NBA championships. Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach, Pat Riley, and John Kundla are the other coaches.
Early life and education
Popovich was born in East Chicago, Indiana on January 28, 1949, to a Serbian father and Croatian mother. 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.
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.
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.
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. The two won an NBA title together in 1999.
Another one of Popovich's early moves in San Antonio was to trade Dennis Rodman to the Chicago Bulls for Will Perdue. Rodman was not fond of Popovich, as he said in his first book Bad As I Wanna Be.
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.
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 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." 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. 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."
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.
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. He would also win his fifth NBA championship with the San Antonio Spurs that same season.
Popovich served on the coaching staff for the U.S. national team in the 2002 FIBA World Championship (assisting George Karl), 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 %|
|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 NBA Finals|
|SAS||2013–14||82||62||20||.756||1st in Southwest||23||16||7||.696||Won NBA Championship|
||This section of a biography of a living person does not include any references or sources. (June 2014)|
Popovich is actively involved in several charities and programs in San Antonio, such as the Spurs/Pizza Hut Drug Free Youth Basketball League and the San Antonio Food Bank. He is a noted wine enthusiast. He and his wife, Erin, have two children, Micky and Jill.
- Wetzel, Dan (2007-06-14). "French connection". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved 2008-04-17.
- "Devin Brown And Coach Pop Spread Message To Local Youth". NBA.com. 2004-02-01. Retrieved 2008-03-05.
- Wojnarowski, Adrian (10 June 2007). "'Pop' art". Yahoo! Sports (http://sports.yahoo.com/nba).
- Popovich is a man of mystery. National Post, June 15, 2007. http://www.nationalpost.com/scripts/story.html?id=67824e36-aaf6-4445-86a7-41440589441b&k=32409
- Gregg Popovich honored at Air Force Academy. 04 April 2008. KOAA. http://www.koaa.com/aaaa_sports_news/x9317948
- PRO BASKETBALL;Unhappy Rodman Is Dealt From Spurs to the Bulls. New York Times, 1995-10-03
- Rodman, Dennis (1996), Bad as I Wanna Be, Delacorte Press, p. 85
- Official Release. "Spurs' Popovich named Coach of the Year".
- David Stern: Sanctions coming. ESPN, 2012-11-30.
- Spurs fined $250,000 for 'disservice'. ESPN, 2012-11-30.
- David Stern stumbles again in his failed culture war against the Spurs, fines franchise $250K
- Spurs' Gregg Popovich named 2013-14 Coach of the Year
- 2002 USA Basketball
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