Currently the longest tenured coach in the NBA, Gregg Popovich has been part of the Spurs organization since 1988.
Before becoming head coach of the Spurs, he had roles as a lead assistant and Vice President of Basketball Operations, before taking over as head coach after Larry Brown’s exit in 1996.
With strong leadership, Gregg Popovich coached David Robinson until he retired in 2003 and passed the torch to Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili who would then hand over the Alamo keys to Kawhi Leonard before he silently demanded his exit to the NBA’s wide open Eastern Conference.
With Leonard and Parker gone, the keys now belong to DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge.
He has the respect of his former players. “He’s not afraid to say what he believes and stand by it,” Detroit Pistons Assistant GM, Malik Rose told me via text message.
“He has the ability to keep egos in check by running a fair system that any professional athlete can respect,” retired NBA champ, Samaki Walker told me by phone.
“You know where you stand with Pop,” said Speedy Claxton.
When you look at defining coaches, cigar and all, Red Auerbach was the don with the Boston Celtics and Phil Jackson ran a tight ship with both the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Is Pop a figurehead in that same regard?
NBA vet, Robert Horry may be qualified to answer that question.
Of his 7 NBA championships, Horry won two championships with Popovich and the Spurs and three as a Laker under Jackson.
Million Dollar Question: Who’s the hardest to play under between Jackson and Popovich?
“The hardest coach was Pop,” Robert Horry told me on Scoop B Radio.
“Pop was one of those guys who’ll have a million plays and I’m like: ‘what are we doing?’ We’ve got a million plays and he’ll run a play and then won’t run it again until five games later.”
Coach Pop is that dude!
Brutally honest, his answers to life’s simplest questions is your favorite icing on your favorite cake.
“I try not to idolize too many people,” Popovich once told me.
“I think that all idols have feet of clay and I think that especially in our country, we tend to mythologize people. So I look to people that I’ve known personally, whether that’s a coach or teacher, a relative; somebody that I respect because I know them. But people who I don’t know that have been mythologized, I don’t know them much.”
Added Coach Pop:
“At the top of my head, Thomas Jefferson was a great guy; he was a slave owner. You can make that similar analogy with a lot of other people who have been idolized. They all have flaws. So I go for people that I know.”
Here’s the two Million Dollar Question: How different is Phil Jackson from Gregg Popovich?
“I put Phil right there; tied for second with Pop,” Robert Horry also told me on the Scoop B Radio Podcast.
“Him and Pop were so similar in the fact that they stressed defense and they liked running their systems to a tee. Even though Phil had more athletic guys where he could venture off from running his system, Pop had a bunch of robots that would run that system and lull you to sleep and the next thing you know, they got a bucket. Phil of course had Kobe and MJ who could create their own shots and that made his system a lot better.”