San Antonio Spurs: Analyzing the Gregg Popovich coaching tree

By Andrew Ites
Aug 16, 2019, 11:00 AM CDT
SAN ANTONIO, TX - NOVEMBER 2: Head Coaches Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs and Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors talk before the game on November 2, 2017 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Darren Carroll/NBAE via Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL – JUNE 19: Head Coach Gregg Popovich speaks to Assistant Coach Mike Budenholzer of the San Antonio Spurs during practice as part of the 2013 NBA Finals on June 19, 2013 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

The San Antonio Spurs have a history of producing great coaches and general managers during the Gregg Popovich era. Let’s take a look at some of the top names that have gone on to succeed after working with Pop.

This summer was no different than most summers for Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs as their coaching staff and front office were both poached by teams attempting to recreate some of the magic that has made this franchise so successful.

However, Pop and R.C. Buford have always had a tremendous eye for talent both on and off the court and they’ve been able to reload each year during this streak of 22 consecutive playoff appearances.

Gregg Popovich’s influence is prevalent throughout the league as 11 of the NBA’s current head coaches have direct ties to Pop and San Antonio.

Pop’s connections stretch into the front office too as many of the league’s top general managers cut their teeth in the Spurs’ organization before going off to succeed on their own.

As you can guess, the Gregg Popovich tree contains numerous branches with many of his top pupils going on to win titles in this league.

Let’s examine Pop’s former assistants, players, and front office members who have taken big jobs after their stop in San Antonio.

Next: Former Assistants

PHILADELPHIA, PA – FEBRUARY 8: Head coach Brett Brown of the Philadelphia 76ers shakes hands with head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs after the game at the Wells Fargo Center on February 8, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Spurs defeated the 76ers 111-103. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Former Assistants

Brett Brown

Brett Brown spent 11 years in San Antonio during two separate stints as an assistant coach under Gregg Popovich before taking the 76ers’ head job in 2013. After four years of tanking, Brown has taken Philadelphia to the playoffs in each of the past two seasons.

Mike Budenholzer

Mike Budenholzer was an assistant for Gregg Popovich from Pop’s first year as a head coach in 1996 all the way to 2013 when he got his first head coaching job with the Hawks. Budenholzer has won a Coach of the Year award with two different franchises and has only missed the playoffs once in his head coaching career.

James Borrego

James Borrego sat next to Pop as an assistant in San Antonio for two different stints with the Spurs before accepting the head coaching job in Charlotte in 2018. With the loss of Kemba Walker, Borrego has a major rebuild ahead of him with the Hornets.

Jim Boylen

Jim Boylen assisted Gregg Popovich from 2013-15 in San Antonio before moving on to Chicago and earning the head coaching job after a stint as the interim coach last season.

Mike D’Antoni

Mike D’Antoni was actually a scout for the Spurs during the 1999-00 season after being fired by the Denver Nuggets. D’Antoni got another chance as a head coach in Phoenix where they won a lot of games without securing a title.

The “seven seconds or less” coach had jobs in New York and L.A. before finding a good fit in Houston where they’ve fallen short to the Golden State Warriors a few times.

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Taylor Jenkins

Taylor Jenkins was an assistant for the Spurs’ G League affiliate in Austin from 2008-13 before following Mike Budenholzer to Atlanta. He’ll get his first shot at being a head coach this season with a promising, young Grizzlies squad.

Alvin Gentry

Alvin Gentry and Gregg Popovich were assistant coaches together for the Spurs under head coach Larry Brown in 1989-90. Gentry coached the Pistons, Clippers, and Suns before getting his current job leading the Pelicans.

Quin Snyder

Quin Snyder was the head coach in Austin from 2007-10 before bouncing around to a few assistant jobs and eventually landing in Utah as their head coach in 2014.

Mike Brown

Mike Brown was an assistant for the Spurs from 2000-03 before becoming the Cavaliers’ head coach a couple years later and losing to Gregg Popovich in the 2007 NBA Finals.

Jacque Vaughn

Jacque Vaughn was on staff in San Antonio from 2010-12 before taking the head coaching job in Orlando where he struggled for three years.

Earl Watson

Earl Watson spent one season as an assistant coach in Austin but only got one full year as the head coach in Phoenix before he was fired.

Joe Prunty

Joe Prunty was another assistant coach that was by Gregg Popovich’s side in San Antonio from the beginning in 1996 until 2005. Prunty went 21-16 as the Bucks’ interim coach before losing in a seven-game first round series in 2018.

Next: Former Players

OAKLAND, CA – FEBRUARY 6: Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr shakes hands with San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich following the Warriors 141-102 win at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019. (Photo by Nhat V. Meyer/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images)

Former Players

Steve Kerr

Steve Kerr spent two different stints in San Antonio during his playing career and helped the Spurs win a couple of titles in 1999 and 2003. Kerr and Pop have become close friends over the last two decades.

Steve has led the Warriors to five NBA Finals appearances during his five years in Golden State winning three championships.

Doc Rivers

Doc Rivers played for the Spurs from 1994-96 while Gregg Popovich was an assistant on staff.

Rivers won a title as the Celtics’ head coach in 2008 and made the Finals again with Boston in 2010.

Related Story. Predicting the Spurs starting lineup

Monty Williams

Monty Williams played in San Antonio from 1996-98 which were Gregg Popovich’s first two seasons as the Spurs’ head coach.

Williams made the playoffs twice during his head coaching stint in New Orleans, and he’ll now get another shot at with Phoenix beginning this season.

Avery Johnson

Avery Johnson spent two different stints in San Antonio during his playing career and won a title with the Spurs in 1999.

Johnson coached the Mavericks for three-and-a-half years and made an NBA Finals appearance in his first full season as head coach. He also spent three years coaching the Nets and five seasons as the head coach at Alabama.

Vinny Del Negro

Vinny Del Negro played in San Antonio for six years, and his final two seasons with the Spurs were Pop’s first two years as head coach.

Del Negro spent five years as a head coach in the NBA with the Bulls and the Clippers making the playoffs in four of those five seasons.

Next: Front Office

SAN ANTONIO, TX – MARCH 28: RC Buford, Manu Ginobili, and Sean Marks attend a game between the San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers on March 28, 2018 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)

Front Office

Sam Presti

Sam Presti began his NBA career as an intern for the Spurs before making his way through the ranks of the front office and was instrumental in selecting Tony Parker 28th overall in the 2001 Draft.

Presti has been the general manager of the Sonics/Thunder franchise since 2007 and has built them into one of the league’s best teams despite the lack of a Larry O’Brien trophy.

Sean Marks

Sean Marks played for the Spurs from 2003-06 and spent four years on staff as an assistant coach from 2013-16 before being offered the general manager position in Brooklyn.

Marks has spearheaded one of the great rebuilding jobs in NBA history with a Nets team that essentially had no assets when he arrived.

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Scott Layden

Scott Layden was the assistant general manager in San Antonio from 2012-16 before getting the general manager job in Minnesota. Layden survived the firing of Tom Thibodeau and remains in the Timberwolves’ front office.

Dennis Lindsey

Before Scott Layden took over the position, Dennis Lindsey was the Spurs’ assistant general manager from 2007-12. San Antonio’s success during his tenure helped him land the GM job in Utah where he’s built one of the league’s deepest rosters.

Kevin Pritchard

Kevin Pritchard spent time with the Spurs as a scout while he was climbing up the NBA ranks, and he’s done a fantastic job as the general manager of the Indiana Pacers since he was promoted to that position in 2012.

Danny Ferry

Danny Ferry played the final three years of his career in San Antonio before joining the front office in 2003. Ferry has been the general manager in Cleveland and Atlanta since then, and his most recent position was a special advisory role that turned into an interim GM gig in New Orleans.

Dell Demps

The general manager Ferry took over for in New Orleans was Dell Demps who ran the Pelicans’ front office from 2010 until last February. Demps spent one year of his playing career in San Antonio during the 1995-96 season and worked in the Spurs’ front office from 2005-10.

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Rob Hennigan

Rob Hennigan became one of the youngest general managers in the history of professional sports when the Magic hired him in 2012. Hennigan began his NBA career by spending four years in San Antonio’s front office.