Erin Popovich, the wife of San Antonio Spurs’ head coach Gregg Popovich, died on April 18, 2018, the team confirmed in a statement. Many fans and even a top player expressed shock at hearing the news. She was only 67-years-old.
That has a lot of people wondering: What is Erin Popovich’s cause of death? How did she die? Here’s what is known about that point thus far:
Although the death surprised a lot of fans, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, writing on Twitter, Erin Popovich died after an “extended illness.” The San Antonio Express News provided further detail, reporting that Erin Popovich “died Wednesday after a lengthy battle with a respiratory illness.” The newspaper reported that she had suffered from the respiratory ailment since the mid-1990s and it “prevented her from joining her husband at many events she likely would have attended had she been healthy.”
The Express News, in a story rounding up reaction, further reported that Spurs guard Danny Green was “stunned” by the death and told the newspaper “he had seen signs that she was getting stronger,” adding, “It’s really hard to believe. This summer, she was just able to travel and I was so happy for him and her to be able to get away.”
She died earlier in the day on Wednesday, April 18. ESPN wrote that Erin “had been battling an illness for an extended period.” According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, “An Air Force graduate who is friends with the Conboy family told The Gazette she had suffered a long illness.” (Erin Popovich is the daughter of Air Force Academy athletic trainer Jim Conboy.)
However, more details on that illness and the official cause of death were not yet been released as the news broke of Erin Popovich’s death. Here is the original report stating that Popovich had been ill for some time:
“The news comes as a shock to players and fans — although it’s being reported she’d been ill for an extended period … Coach Popovich hadn’t said anything publicly,” TMZ reported. Gregg and Erin Popovich had two children together named Jill and Micky.
It’s clear that many people were not expecting the news. The team is taking on the Golden State Warriors Thursday night in San Antonio. However, it’s now been announced that Gregg Popovich will not coach the game. “Erin and Gregg were best friends who were together for 40 years, and Erin’s impact and influence on our organization, on our families, on our players and their families will be felt for years to come,” said Spurs general manager R.C. Buford to ESPN.
“I spoke to Pop this morning. He’s overwhelmed by the support. He’s very appreciative of the love that’s been shared with our group and with him and his family and Erin’s family. As you’d expect from Pop, he wants our focus to be about the game today, about this series, and that’s what today will be about. We’ll miss Erin a lot, and the focus of our team will be on supporting Pop. But we’ve got basketball to get back to.”
Members of the Spurs’ family offered tributes to Erin Popovich.
“We mourn the loss of Erin,” said Spurs GM R.C. Buford. “She was a strong, wonderful, kind, intelligent woman who provided love, support and humor to all of us.”
Gregg Popovich is known for his penchant for privacy. As an ESPN NBA writer noted in a 2012 article on Gregg Popovich’s privacy: “To most, this page contains simply words and sentences and photos. Not to Gregg Popovich. He sees booby traps. Daggers. An interrogator’s metal chair under a bare lightbulb.” The article noted that Popovich steers away from casting media attention on himself. In that light, it’s perhaps not surprising that so many people were caught unaware that his wife was sick.
NewsOK noted that Gregg “Popovich ran the Spurs’ practice Wednesday.”
The Warriors’ Kevin Durant was caught by complete surprise, judging from a video of a brief interview he gave after learning the news. “What? Seriously?” Durant said when asked about the death only minutes after the team’s statement was released. “Prayers and condolences to his family. Man, I don’t know what to say.” You can watch his response here:
According to ESPN, Durant also said: “The whole NBA family is supporting him, got his back through it all. Feel so bad for Pop.”
LeBron James also seemed at a loss for words when asked about Erin’s death. After a pause, he said, “I mean obviously I’m a huge Pop fan. I love Pop. That’s such a tragedy and my best wishes goes out to Pop and his family. I know that’s devastating news. Holy.. um, in the NBA family, we all stick together… it puts everything in perspective.” You can watch that video here:
The Spurs confirmed the death, releasing this statement. It does not mention cause of death:
With deep regret the San Antonio Spurs announce that Erin Popovich, wife of Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich, passed away earlier today. Erin and Gregg were married for four decades and were blessed with two children and two grandchildren.
“We mourn the loss of Erin,” said Spurs General Manager RC Buford. “She was a strong, wonderful, kind, intelligent woman who provided love, support and humor to all of us.”
The organization asks media to respect the family’s privacy during this difficult time.
Others were too upset to say anything about Erin’s death.
However, Kerr later told Yahoo Sports of Erin: “Knew her well. She was close with my wife (Margot) when I played here. Erin was sort of the balance that Pop needed (laughter). I still remember when he traded me to Portland in 2001, he called me up to tell me the news, he said: ‘I don’t think I can go home, because Erin is gonna be so mad at me for trading you.’
He added: “Margot and Erin were close and stayed in touch over the years. She was part of the family, but she’s dealt with a lot over the last few years health-wise and has been very courageous.”
Erin and Gregg Popovich married when he was working as an assistant at the Air Force Academy, according to ESPN.
Gregg Popovich once joking discussed his wife teasing him about his thorny attitude towards reporters: “It entertains everybody but my wife,” Popovich said. “When I get home and she says, ‘Geez, why are you so mean? You’re a jerk, people hate you.’ I go, ‘I’m sorry, honey, I have to do better next time.'”
This article will be updated as more information is learned about the circumstances of Erin Popovich’s death.