We might be in the final days of Gregg Popovich’s tenure with the San Antonio Spurs, so it’s time to fully appreciate just how great he hast been.
Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs have been on one of the greatest runs in the history of team sports ever since Pop took the job in 1996.
Pop and the Spurs have hoisted five Larry O’Brien trophies during that time and were a Ray Allen jump shot away from winning six titles.
Pop has also continued to climb the all-time regular season wins leaderboard passing Jerry Sloan for third place earlier this season. And with a playoff series victory this season, Popovich would tie Pat Riley for the second-most wins in the postseason in league history.
Pop’s recent comments to Marc Stein make his NBA coaching future look fairly murky as he doesn’t know if he will continue coaching past this season.
There is no doubt that Pop deserves to be in the conversation of the greatest coaches in NBA history, but that conversation is crowded with legendary names who often get the nod over someone who is still coaching in the league.
Here are three reasons why Gregg Popovich has already passed those legends and become the greatest coach in the history of the NBA.
The Spurs have had many truly dynamic offenses during the Gregg Popovich era, but great defense has always been the key to San Antonio’s consistent dominance.
The Spurs ranked dead last in defensive rating in Pop’s first season with the team in 1996-97, but he quickly turned them into the league’s second-best defense the next year.
San Antonio finished in the top-three in defensive rating every year from 1997-98 to 2007-08, and they have never once finished outside of the top 11 in defense during Pop’s tenure.
Pop is known for employing a fairly simple defensive scheme that allows his team to play fast and hard every night, but he’s also come up with some incredible gameplans to shut down historic offenses like he did against the Rockets a couple of years ago.
Solid defense has always been a bedrock of Pop’s teams, and it’s one reason why they’ve been the most consistent franchise in the NBA for over two decades.
Many great coaches become stuck in their ways and fail to evolve their style of coaching as the game passes them by, but Pop has continued to field great teams over multiple eras of basketball with vastly different styles of play.
Then Pop and the Spurs began finding talent overseas before the rest of the league caught on and formed the big three of Ducan, Ginobili, and Parker.
That group of players won in the incredibly slow and defensive style of play of the early-to-mid-2000’s, but they also played the most beautiful ball movement offense that the league has ever seen when they destroyed LeBron James and the Heat in 2014.
Now the Spurs have transitioned into another era of ball where they dominate the midrange while other teams look to take away the three-ball and points in the paint.
Pop’s ability to win in a multitude of ways puts him in a class of his own when it comes to coaching.
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Finally, the Spurs’ culture of winning is why they are looking to make the playoffs for the 22nd straight season in one of the league’s smallest markets.
Gregg Popovich will be the first one to tell you that all of the credit for San Antonio’s great culture should go to Tim Duncan and the rest of the great leaders the Spurs have had during this era, but Pop was the one who encouraged them to lead and set a precedent for how the entire organization was going to operate.
The Spurs’ fantastic culture encourages role players to shine when they haven’t been called on for awhile, it has prevented drama from ripping the team apart from the inside, and it’s allowed the Spurs to continue their dominance after reaching the top of the mountain multiple times.
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It’s hard to tangibly describe why San Antonio’s culture has produced so many wins, and a myriad of organizations around the world have tried to emulate the Spurs’ formula.
However, there is only one Gregg Popovich, and that is why he should go down as the greatest coach in NBA history.