When Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs finally clinched the all-time wins record for a head coach, it was met with the fanfare it deserved. Outlets like The Athletic, ESPN, and Bleacher Report have been ignoring the San Antonio Spurs for the better part of a decade, but they all finally gave Popovich the praise he has deserved for over 20 seasons.
Spurs fans shouldn’t worry about someone else stealing his thunder in the near future. No one will be breaking his record anytime soon, so the Silver and Black will have plenty of time to bask in his accomplishment as he wraps up the most storied career in NBA history. That being said, unless your name is Wilt Chamberlain, someone will always come and eventually topple your record.
I’m sure Popovich has been enjoying the last few days and has been slowly taking it all in, but I’m also sure that he would love to see someone eventually break his record. He’s one of the “old guards” of the NBA, but he also appreciates greatness and wants to pass the torch.
In 2007, Tim Duncan told LeBron James that it was his league now. Duncan wanted to pass James the torch and did for a little while until he took it back in 2014.
Unfortunately, whoever breaks Pop’s record will not be able to simply give it back. When the record is inevitably broken far down the line, I’m sure Popovich, Duncan, David Robinson, and everyone else who helped get to however many wins he ends up with will happily concede and celebrate with the new record holder.
Now that I've established that it will eventually happen, let's look at who might take the record and when.
Of the 20 most winningest coaches in NBA history, four are current coaches: Doc Rivers (PHI), Rick Carlisle (IND), Nate McMillan (ATL), and Coach Pop. McMillan is the only coach without a ring, and if he stays in Atlanta, I doubt he’ll ever get one.
Because they are both young and each has coached a team to the Finals, I will also include Tyronn Lue (LAC) and Erik Spoelstra (MIA). Neither are within 700 wins of Popovich. In fact, Lue is more than 1000 wins away, but he’s not even 45 and has already established himself as a hot commodity in the league.
Spoelstra makes the cut simply because of his similarities to Popovich. Both have spent their entire career with one organization, had early success thanks to a young superstar (Duncan and Wade), and had help from the best GMs in the game (Buford and Riley).
We can reasonably predict that Popovich will finish with roughly 1,400 wins. After finishing this season and coaching two more seasons with an improving roster, there's no reason to think he can't reach that milestone.
Let's do a deeper dive into the candidates who could eventually give him a run for his money.