Gregg Popovich has won many, many, many basketball games. 1,336 exactly in the regular season, new NBA record please, and 1,506 if we take the Playoffs into account. And inevitably some in the party have a very special meaning for some reason. This is especially the case with the seven successes that we will tell you about below.
The very first win
We are the Dec 14, 1996† Gregg Popovich has just moved from the Spurs offices to the sidelines, simultaneously firing coach Brian Hill after a disastrous start to the season (15 losses in 18 games). After two early defeats as San Antonio’s new coach, Pop tastes his first success against Jason Kidd’s Mavericks. Victory in the 106-105 snatch after a bust at the Dallas buzzer, all spurred on by a great David Robinson (game winner author) and a… Dominique Wilkins in sixth man mode. Sean Elliott and Avery Johnson throw themselves into Pop’s arms, it’s just the beginning of his legend.
To avoid victory… dismissal
The beginning of his legend for sure, but did you know that Gregg Popovich was almost fired by the Spurs in 1999? No, it’s not a joke. With a record of just six wins and eight losses, the San Antonio franchise got off to a bad start that season, so much so that Pop was in an ejection seat. But the March 2, 1999against Houston’s Texas neighbor, the team united to save their coach’s head and won 99-82 by conviction. ‘The most important game of Gregg Popovich’s career’ according to former San Antonio player Steve Kerr. And rightly so, it is the first success of a string of nine consecutive wins that will give Spurs great dynamism for the rest of the season. San Antonio ends the 1998-99 campaign with 37 wins in 50 games and most importantly, a first NBA title at the end.
The win for the first ring
Gregg Popovich is one of those who has a ring of champion on every finger of the hand, left or right it doesn’t matter. But we say it often, and Pop may confirm it to you when you meet him one day, the first title isn’t quite like the other. This feeling of having reached the top for the first time is something completely different. For the legendary Spurs coach, this feeling goes back to June 25, 1999† After knocking out the Blazers in the Conference Finals, thanks in particular to the Memorial Day Miracle, San Antonio won the ring against the New York Knicks, which is more in the mecca of basketball and on one last action at the buzzer. Simply unforgettable.
The Victory to End the Lakers Dynasty
At the dawn of the new millennium, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant’s Lakers destroyed everything in their path, reigning over the Western Conference and winning three consecutive NBA titles. Among their greatest victims? The Spurs, were eliminated by a violent sweep in 2001 and in just five games in 2002. The following year, the Spurs and Lakers meet again in the conf’ semifinals, but the scenario is different. Thanks in particular to a Tim Duncan at the top of his game, Gregg Popovich’s band took over the three-time champions, even humiliated the Californians at Staples Center during Game 6, won 110-82 on May 15, 2003. While Kobe and his friends are in tears, the Spurs seize power in the West and win the title that same year. During the decade, San Antonio will also win two other rings, in 2005 and 2007. The transition from one dynasty to another in a way.
The victory of the beautiful game
Sometimes the hardest times are the source of the greatest achievements. In the 2013 NBA Finals, the Spurs let slip a title that stretched their arms, the error of missed free throws and a terrible three-pointer from Ray Allen, perfectly served on a rebound from Chris Bosh while… Tim Duncan was on the bench. Gregg Popovich, like all members of the Texas team, took a long time to fall asleep again, but this trauma turned into an endless source of motivation for the next campaign. An absolutely magnificent campaign, characterized by an absolutely exceptional collective game – the “Beautiful Game” – and above all a brilliant revenge on the LeBron James gang. the June 15, 2014San Antonio beats Miami’s Three-Peat dreams to win its fifth title in style.
Victory for Olympic Gold
Gregg Popovich is not just another coach who won five league titles with San Antonio. He is also a coach who has an Olympic gold medal around his neck. So inevitably, even if we leave the NBA universe and the Spurs, it’s one of the biggest successes of his career. After taking charge of Team USA following Mike Krzyzewski’s departure after the 2016 Olympics, Pop initially struggled to fulfill the very lofty goals associated with this position, the Americans finishing only seventh in the 2019 World Cup (the worst place in their history). † Admittedly, it was Team USA’s Z team, but that put extra pressure on his shoulders ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. That pressure may have been higher than ever. August 6, 2021, when the States faced France in the final, an opponent the band had defeated at Pop in the opening game. But mostly thanks to Kevin Durant’s exploits, the mission was accomplished with an 87-82 win. NBA champion and Olympic champion, not many coaches can say that.
“And I’d like to say to all those people: [doubters] out there: how do you like us now, b*tch? †
Speech by Gregg Popovich after the gold medal match
—ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) August 16, 2021
The 1,336th win
The record win, which allowed Gregg Popovich to overtake Don Nelson and become the most successful coach in NBA history. Unlike Jazz on this Friday March 11, 2022Pop’s band has been heavily crossed since Quin Snyder’s at the start of the last quarter with a ten-point lead. But Popovich’s pros gave their all to offer the record to their coach, winning the final period 40-28 before jumping on him to celebrate. Sportingly, this win doesn’t weigh very heavily given where the Spurs stand today. But symbolically it’s just huge.
Bonus: Victory for Erin
This is one of the most painful episodes in Gregg Popovich’s life. the April 22, 2018Pop is not on the Spurs bench for Game 4 of the first round of the Playoffs between San Antonio and Golden State. A few days earlier, he was indeed struck by a great personal tragedy, namely the death of his wife Erin. The shock is big in the NBA world, and supporters are proliferating across the League, from LeBron James to Kevin Durant through Steve Kerr and many others. The Spurs – obviously deeply scarred by the news – will then do everything they can to avoid being wiped out against the Golden State armada, taking home the win to force a Game 5. #ThisOneIsForPop
Gregg Popovich is the most successful coach in history, but these seven successes will necessarily keep a special place in his storied career. And who knows, maybe more will come, because Pop hasn’t decided to hang up yet.