After multiple decades of sustained success, the San Antonio Spurs have been a key model for other franchises throughout the contemporary era of this league.
There’s only one version of the San Antonio Spurs, but organizations throughout the NBA have bitten pieces off of the Spurs dynasty in hopes of building their own dynasty. Being a coach, staff member or player under franchise architect Gregg Popovich has put many of his pupils on to great opportunities elsewhere.
San Antonio’s success unintentionally initiated a butterfly effect of sorts on the rest of the league, providing a blueprint of how to generate and sustain excellence. Golden State’s reign over the NBA boiled as they faced off with the Spurs in the 2013 Western Conference Semi Finals, eventually adding former Spur Steve Kerr as head coach and leader of the youthful Warriors.
The experience of playing alongside Michael Jordan and under Mr. Eleven Rings, Phil Jackson certainly shaped Kerr as a basketball mind. He then shifted over to the Alamo City, learned from Popovich and earned two more rings to his personal collection.
Kerr is the most prevalent case of Spurs wisdom moving on to glory, but many of the league’s rising teams have coaches, player or executives that sprouted under the Big Three Era.
Brett Brown shares the first time he truly understood the connection between @manuginobili and the city of San Antonio.
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) March 17, 2019
During ‘The Process’ in Philadelphia, head coach Brett Brown, a well-recognized descendent of the Popovich coaching tree, has been the anchor stabilizing a hectic succession of years. His coaching style is noticeably less precise and tactical than Popovich’s, but many of the same values that Brown learned in San Antonio have been implemented with the Sixers.
From a purely tactical on-court perspective, the playstyles initiated by Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer align very closely with those of Gregg Popovich. His emphasis on ball movement, getting shooters open with space and utilizing screens to free up motion have been hugely influential in the Bucks’ pursuit of the best record in the league.
Coach Bud was a video coordinator for two years in San Antonio before joining Pop on the sideline as an assistant coach from 1996-2013. He then left for Atlanta, where he boasted a 213-197 record while making the playoffs in 4-of-5 seasons. Budenholzer was so heavily ingrained in the Spurs culture that it was inevitable for him to implement his former team’s strategies in his own career.
Since joining the Bucks, we’ve seen him use Spur-like coaching strategies to drive his team and surround MVP-favorite Giannis Antetokounmpo with expert role players. He’s instilled a gritty defensive mentality and high basketball IQ in his players during his short time with the team.
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Another member of the Spurs family that is thriving elsewhere is Brooklyn Nets general manager Sean Marks, whose time in San Antonio was pivotal to his own development as a professional and basketball mind.
Marks was a basketball operations assistant and general manager of the D-League affiliate Austin Toros before taking Coach Bud’s spot on the bench in 2013. His innate understanding of player development and calculated negotiation skills are crucial to Brooklyn’s rebuild following Billy King’s evisceration of the Nets.
During his time with the Nets, Marks has shifted a broken franchise by capitalizing on depreciated assets such as D’Angelo Russell and Caris LeVert. He’s also scrapped legitimate talent from the G League and waiver wire with players like Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris. His roster building has been meticulous yet effective in returning Brooklyn to postseason contention.
Slowly but surely, we’ve seen the Spurs way seep into the very foundation of the modern NBA.