|San Antonio Spurs|
|Born||January 28, 1949|
East Chicago, Indiana, U.S.
|Listed height||6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)|
|High school||Merrillville (Merrillville, Indiana)|
|College||Air Force (1966–1970)|
|1973–1979||Air Force (assistant)|
|1988–1992||San Antonio Spurs (assistant)|
|1992–1994||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 professional basketball coach and executive who is the president and 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 the NBA as well as all other major sports leagues in the United States. Often called "Coach Pop", Popovich has the most wins of any coach in NBA history, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest coaches in NBA history.
Popovich led the Spurs to a winning record in his first 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 have won five titles. He was also the head coach of the U.S. national team at the 2020 Summer Olympics, leading the team to a gold medal.
Early life and education
Popovich was born on January 28, 1949, in East Chicago, Indiana, to a Serbian father and Croatian mother. After graduating from Merrillville High School in 1966, Popovich attended the United States Air Force Academy. He played on the academy's Air Force Falcons men's basketball team, and in his senior year was the team's captain and leading scorer. He graduated from the Academy in 1970 with a bachelor's degree in Soviet studies. Popovich underwent Air Force intelligence training and briefly 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 the 6-foot-2-inch (1.88 m) guard an invitation to the 1972 U.S. Olympic Basketball Team trials.
Pomona-Pitzer and early career (1973–1994)
In 1973, Popovich returned to the Air Force Academy as an assistant coach under the school's head basketball coach Hank Egan. Egan later became an assistant coach under Popovich for the San Antonio Spurs. During his time as an assistant coach at the Academy, Popovich earned a master's degree in physical education and sports sciences from the University of Denver.
In 1979, Popovich was named the head coach of the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens, the joint men's basketball team of Pomona College and Pitzer College in Claremont, California. Popovich coached the Pomona-Pitzer men's basketball team 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 (1994–present)
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. Rodman was not fond of Popovich, as Rodman said in his first book, Bad As I Wanna Be.
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 on December 10, 1996 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.
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.
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 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". 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. Stern's decision was criticized by commentator 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 April 22, 2014, Popovich was awarded the Red Auerbach Trophy as he won the NBA Coach of the Year for the third time. 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.
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 regular season win with one franchise, surpassing Sloan.
On April 13, 2019, Popovich surpassed Lenny Wilkens and became the all-time winningest coach in NBA history with his 1,413th win (regular season and playoffs combined).
On March 27, 2021, after leading his team to a 120–104 victory against the Chicago Bulls, Popovich won his 1,300th regular season game and became the third NBA coach to reach the milestone.
On February 16, 2022, Popovich led the Spurs to his 1,333rd regular season victory, surpassing Lenny Wilkens for second place all-time. On March 11, Popovich led the Spurs to his 1,336th regular season victory, surpassing Don Nelson for first place all-time. Popovich needed 370 fewer games than Don Nelson to achieve this record.
National team career
Popovich served on the coaching staff for the U.S. men's national team during the 2002 FIBA World Championship (assisting George Karl), during the 2003 FIBA America Men's Olympic Qualifying Tournament, and during the Athens 2004 Olympic Games (assisting Larry Brown), where the U.S. team won the bronze medal.
With Popovich serving as the head coach for the U.S. men's national team, he led the team to a gold medal at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, going 5–1 and defeating France 87–82 in the final.
On multiple occasions, Popovich has spoken out on behalf of social justice issues, including in support of the 2017 Women's March. He also repeatedly criticized the behavior of former U.S. President Donald Trump. Popovich endorsed Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
Popovich has spent considerable time and money working with several charities and nonprofits such as the San Antonio Food Bank and the 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. 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.
Head coaching record
|Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens (Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) (1979–1986)|
|1985–86||Pomona-Pitzer||16–12||8–2||1st||NCAA D-III Regional Fourth Place|
|Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens (Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) (1987–1988)|
Postseason invitational champion
|Regular season||G||Games coached||W||Games won||L||Games lost||W–L %||Win–loss %|
|Playoffs||PG||Playoff games||PW||Playoff wins||PL||Playoff losses||PW–L %||Playoff win–loss %|
|San Antonio||1996–97||64||17||47||.266||6th in Midwest||—||—||—||—||Missed playoffs|
|San Antonio||1997–98||82||56||26||.683||2nd in Midwest||9||4||5||.444||Lost in Conference Semifinals|
|San Antonio||1998–99||50||37||13||.740||1st in Midwest||17||15||2||.882||Won NBA Championship|
|San Antonio||1999–00||82||53||29||.646||2nd in Midwest||4||1||3||.250||Lost in First Round|
|San Antonio||2000–01||82||58||24||.707||1st in Midwest||13||7||6||.538||Lost in Conference Finals|
|San Antonio||2001–02||82||58||24||.707||1st in Midwest||10||4||6||.400||Lost in Conference Semifinals|
|San Antonio||2002–03||82||60||22||.732||1st in Midwest||24||16||8||.667||Won NBA Championship|
|San Antonio||2003–04||82||57||25||.695||2nd in Midwest||10||6||4||.600||Lost in Conference Semifinals|
|San Antonio||2004–05||82||59||23||.720||1st in Southwest||23||16||7||.696||Won NBA Championship|
|San Antonio||2005–06||82||63||19||.768||1st in Southwest||13||7||6||.538||Lost in Conference Semifinals|
|San Antonio||2006–07||82||58||24||.707||2nd in Southwest||20||16||4||.800||Won NBA Championship|
|San Antonio||2007–08||82||56||26||.683||2nd in Southwest||17||9||8||.529||Lost in Conference Finals|
|San Antonio||2008–09||82||54||28||.659||1st in Southwest||5||1||4||.200||Lost in First Round|
|San Antonio||2009–10||82||50||32||.610||2nd in Southwest||10||4||6||.400||Lost in Conference Semifinals|
|San Antonio||2010–11||82||61||21||.744||1st in Southwest||6||2||4||.333||Lost in First Round|
|San Antonio||2011–12||66||50||16||.758||1st in Southwest||14||10||4||.714||Lost in Conference Finals|
|San Antonio||2012–13||82||58||24||.707||1st in Southwest||21||15||6||.714||Lost in NBA Finals|
|San Antonio||2013–14||82||62||20||.756||1st in Southwest||23||16||7||.696||Won NBA Championship|
|San Antonio||2014–15||82||55||27||.671||3rd in Southwest||7||3||4||.429||Lost in First Round|
|San Antonio||2015–16||82||67||15||.817||1st in Southwest||10||6||4||.600||Lost in Conference Semifinals|
|San Antonio||2016–17||82||61||21||.744||1st in Southwest||16||8||8||.500||Lost in Conference Finals|
|San Antonio||2017–18||82||47||35||.573||3rd in Southwest||5||1||4||.200||Lost in First Round|
|San Antonio||2018–19||82||48||34||.585||2nd in Southwest||7||3||4||.429||Lost in First Round|
|San Antonio||2019–20||71||32||39||.451||4th in Southwest||—||—||—||—||Missed playoffs|
|San Antonio||2020–21||72||33||39||.458||3rd in Southwest||—||—||—||—||Missed playoffs|
|San Antonio||2021–22||82||34||48||.415||4th in Southwest||—||—||—||—||Missed playoffs|
|United States||2019||12||9||3||.750||World Cup||8||6||2||.750||7th place|
|United States||2021||10||7||3||.700||Olympics||6||5||1||.833||Won gold medal|
- John Grasso (November 15, 2010). Historical Dictionary of Basketball. Scarecrow Press. pp. 299–. ISBN 978-0-8108-7506-7.
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- "2018–19 Official NBA Guide" (PDF). NBA.com. p. 197. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
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- "Devin Brown And Coach Pop Spread Message To Local Youth". NBA.com. February 1, 2004. Archived from the original on July 27, 2008. Retrieved March 5, 2008.
- Wojnarowski, Adrian (June 10, 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."
- "The Spurs Speak Out, in Different Languages". June 11, 2014. Retrieved February 24, 2018 – via NYTimes.com.
...born in East Chicago, Ind., to a Serbian father and Croatian mother, ...
- David L. Porter (2005). Basketball: A Biographical Dictionary. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 380–. ISBN 978-0-313-30952-6.
- Draper, Kevin (January 21, 2017). "Gregg Popovich Expresses Support For The Women's March, Again Criticizes Donald Trump". Deadspin. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
- "What We Should Know About Gregg Popovich Before He Coached The Spurs". Forbes. Retrieved May 4, 2019.
He considered other jobs, such as the CIA.
- "Gregg Popovich doubles down on Trump criticism: 'Some days, I feel like we've been invaded'". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 4, 2019.
Popovich, whose degree is in Soviet studies, at one point considered working for the CIA.
- "Gregg Popovich 'belonged' on 1972 Olympic basketball team". San Antonio Express-News. August 23, 2016. Retrieved May 4, 2019.
- "Long before NBA titles, Spurs' Popovich says he 'fell in love' with DIII lifestyle at Pomona-Pitzer". The Student Life. May 6, 2020. Retrieved May 7, 2020.
- PRO BASKETBALL;Unhappy Rodman Is Dealt From Spurs to the Bulls. New York Times, October 3, 1995
- Rodman, Dennis (1996), Bad as I Wanna Be, Delacorte Press, p. 85
- Dwyer, Kelly (June 15, 2014). "Revisiting the day that Gregg Popovich became San Antonio Spurs head coach, with the man he had to push aside". Sports.Yahoo.com. Retrieved March 12, 2022.
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- Official Release. "Spurs' Popovich named Coach of the Year". Archived from the original on May 7, 2012.
- David Stern: Sanctions coming. ESPN, November 30, 2012.
- Spurs fined $250,000 for 'disservice'. ESPN, November 30, 2012.
- Adrian Wojnarowski (November 30, 2012). "David Stern stumbles again in his failed culture war against the Spurs, fines franchise $250K". Sports.yahoo.com. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
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- "NBA Playoffs 2019: Spurs' Gregg Popovich becomes winningest coach in NBA history". www.cbssports.com. Retrieved April 14, 2019.
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- "Gregg Popovich offers support for NBA commissioner Adam Silver on NBA-China showdown". USA Today. October 9, 2019.
- Wright, Michael C. (March 27, 2021). "Gregg Popovich becomes 3rd coach in NBA history to reach 1,300 wins". NBA.com. Retrieved March 30, 2021.
- "Spurs coach Gregg Popovich passes Wilkens for No. 2 on all-time coaching wins list". NBA.com. February 16, 2022. Retrieved February 16, 2022.
- Samillano, Gerard (March 11, 2022). "Spurs coach Gregg Popovich becomes NBA's winningest coach of all-time". ClutchPoints. Retrieved March 11, 2022.
- "Gregg Popovich breaks record for most regular season wins by a coach in NBA history". kens5.com. March 7, 2022.
- 2002 USA Basketball Archived July 14, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
- "Gregg Popovich Named 2017–20 USA National Team Head Coach". USA Basketball. October 23, 2015. Retrieved October 24, 2015.
- Chiari, Mike (September 12, 2019). "Team USA Loses to Serbia After Stunning Defeat to France in 2019 FIBA World Cup". Bleacher Report. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
- McCallum, Jack (August 7, 2021). "Why More Americans Aren't Happy for Gregg Popovich". The Atlantic. Retrieved August 13, 2021.
- Helin, Kurt (August 7, 2021). "Watch Gregg Popovich do defensive shuffles after gold medal win". NBC Sports. Retrieved August 13, 2021.
- "Spurs announce that Gregg Popovich's wife Erin Popovich has died".
- Steiman, Harvey (July 5, 2006). "That Li'l Ol' Winemaker, Popovich". Wine Spectator. Retrieved October 11, 2020.
- Cacciola, Scott (November 12, 2016). "Emboldened N.B.A. Coaches Rip Donald J. Trump's Rhetoric". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 15, 2017.
- Babb, Kent (February 17, 2017). "Gregg Popovich has found the opponent of his life: President Trump". Washington Post. Retrieved May 15, 2017.
- Savransky, Rebecca (May 14, 2017). "Spurs coach Gregg Popovich goes after 'embarrassing' President Trump". TheHill. Retrieved May 15, 2017.
- Mendoza, Madalyn; Rohlin, Melissa (September 25, 2017). "Popovich slams Trump's 'childishness,' 'gratuitous fear-mongering' after political sports weekend". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved September 25, 2017.
- Mendoza, Madalyn (November 12, 2020). "Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich endorses Joe Biden for U.S. President". MySanAntonio.com. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
- "Popovich: If you're 'rich as hell,' give to charity".
- "Gregg Popovich stands up for charity: 'We're rich as hell, and we don't need it all'".
- "1986 Division III men's basketball tournament". D3hoops. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
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