A statement from the San Antonio Spurs said that Gregg Popovich’s wife died on April 18. The press release announcing the tragic passing of Erin Popovich at the age of 67 read, “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 Genergal 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.”
Erin Popovich is survived by her husband of 42 years and their two children, Micky and Jill, as well as two children. No cause of death has been made public. With multiple sources reporting that Erin Popovich had been suffering from a long illness.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. As the Spurs Players Celebrated their 1999 NBA Title Win in Madison Square Garden, Coach Pop Argued With Security Guards to Allow Erin on to the Floor
A July 2012 feature in ESPN magazine on Pop mentioned that in 1999 while his team were celebrating winning the NBA Championship in Madison Square Garden, he was arguing with security guards to get them to allow Erin and their children on to the floor. That same article said that Erin “rarely attends games and has declined every interview request since 1994.” The concluding lines of the piece read that after he got his family on to the court in 1999, “he pulled his family into a tight circle and thanked them for allowing him to do his part.”
The Portland Tribune reported in October 2013 that Pop and Erin were regular vacationeers in Oregon’s wine community, with Pop having ownership stakes in multiple vineyards in the area.
2. Pop Used to Tease Erin’s Conservative Father by Saying Things Like, ‘Wouldn’t it Be Great if They Allowed Gays in the Military?’
My San Antonio reported in 2013 that Erin met Pop while he was studying at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. His dean was General Robert F. McDermott. The general had a daughter named Betsy who had a best friend named Erin, and the rest is history.
Erin’s father, Jim Conboy, had been an athletic trainer at the academy. Conboy passed away in 1998 having spent 43 years at the school. The Colorado Springs Gazette reports that Conboy is a member of the Air Force Academy Athletics Hall of Fame. An ABC News feature on Pop described his ribbing of Conboy, who was politically conservative. In one instance, Pop asked his future father-in-law, “Wouldn’t it be great if they allowed gays in the military?”
When Pop was made coach of the Pomona-Pitzer college basketball team in 1979, he lived in the dorm with his wife and kids for a year. Pop told Sports Illustrated, “I was in awe of the brilliance on that campus.”
In the mid-1990s, General McDermott led a consortium that purchased the Spurs. His daughter, Betsy, told the San Antonio Express News that she helped to encourage her father to hire Pop as coach. Betsy said, “My dad knew him a little bit. But he knew the Conboys well. We kids all grew up together. We were all Catholic. We all went to church and saw each other. Daddy knew of Gregg through Erin. I met Erin in second grade.”
3. Erin Always Said She Wanted Her Husband to Be Nicer in Interviews
It had long been reported that Erin had wanted her husband to be “less salty” in his post game interviews. During an October 2012 appearance on 790 the Ticket, a sports radio show in Miami, Pop admitted to being aggressive with reporters saying. The coach added that Erin often criticized him after he came home from games, saying, “It entertains everybody but my wife. 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… And there’s no exaggeration. Did you see that guy honey? Did you see him? All you have to do is see him and you know why I answered the way I did. (She says) ‘That’s no excuse, you’re a grown man. Show some maturity.’ I said ‘I can’t, I can’t do it.”
4. Her Daughter Helped Coach Popovich Get Over the 2013 NBA Finals
After Ray Allen and the Miami Heat destroyed Pop’s dream of an NBA Championship in 2013, the coach told the media that it was his and Erin’s daughter, Jill, who told him, “OK, Dad, let me get this straight: You won four championships, and you go to a fifth Finals. Other coaches lose all the time. But poor Greggy can’t lose because he’s special. Can you please get over yourself? End of story.”
The couple’s son Micky is an elementary school teacher in the Seattle-area. He was featured in an article by West Seattle Blog in 2009 after the school where he taught, Cooper Elementary, was shut down. Micky told the blog, through tears, “We are such a team, such an amazing mix of good people,”
5. The NBA Family Is Sending Their Love to Coach Pop After Erin’s Tragic Passing
The NBA family is sending their love to Pop as a result of Erin’s tragic passing. Here are some of the most poignant tributes from some of sports’ biggest names: