Gregg Popovich is the winningest head coach in NBA history with 1,344 victories. Together with having essentially the most wins for any coach in league historical past, we’re starting to see one other a part of Popovich’s legacy take form. The 4 head coaches concerned within the final two NBA Finals have a tie to educate Pop, having both been on his employees or performed for him in San Antonio.
If this pattern continues, the NBA would possibly want to think about altering the NBA Finals to the Gregg Popovich Invitational. Celtics rookie head coach Ime Udoka performed for and coached beneath Popovich in San Antonio. Udoka spent most of his assistant teaching time on the Spurs’ sideline with Pop. He additionally spent three of his closing 4 years within the NBA enjoying for the Spurs.
Like Udoka, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr frolicked in San Antonio as a participant for Pop. Kerr performed 4 years in San Antonio and gained two championships in 1999 and 2003. Whereas Kerr is extra identified for taking part in with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, his enjoying days beneath coach Pop considerably affected his teaching model with Golden State. That movement offense the Warriors run the place all people touches the ball, that’s Popovich proper there.
Ought to Udoka and Boston beat Golden State within the Finals, he’d change into solely the fifth coach within the fashionable period to win a title in his first season as head coach. Udoka would be part of Paul Westhead (Lakers’ 79-80), Pat Riley (Lakers’ 81-82), Steve Kerr (Warriors’ 14-15), Tyronn Lue (Cavs’ 15-16), and Nick Nurse (‘ 18-19).
Final 12 months’s Finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns was additionally closely influenced by Popovich. Probably the most profitable teaching disciple (Kerr solely performed for Pop) of Popovich’s to this point has been Mike Budenholzer in Milwaukee. Even earlier than profitable the NBA Finals with the Bucks final season, Budenholzer had an Japanese Convention Finals look as coach of the Atlanta Hawks.
Monty Williams, head coach of the Phoenix Suns, additionally has his personal ties to Popovich. Williams performed for San Antonio in the course of the early a part of Pop’s time as head coach. He was then a training intern for the Spurs to start his teaching profession after his enjoying days had been completed.
Memphis Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins was additionally a part of Pop’s employees at one time, serving as an intern on the staff. Jenkins then grew to become an assistant with Budenholzer in Milwaukee earlier than accepting his first head teaching gig with Memphis in 2019.
Popovich’s teaching affect additionally extends to the WNBA, with Becky Hammon. Hammon coached on Pop’s employees in San Antonio for eight years earlier than taking up her first head teaching job within the WNBA with the Las Vegas Aces. The Aces are off to a 9-1 start to the 2022 season, and it’s wanting like Popovich may have one other former assistant enjoying for a championship quickly.
Hammon was simply named Coach of the Month for Might as a result of Aces’ sizzling begin.
When a coach is as profitable for so long as Popovich, his or her legacy is felt for years down the road. It’s change into simple to dismiss the Spurs over the previous couple of years, however that they had a run of twenty-two years beneath Pop the place they didn’t miss the postseason. That’s the longest streak in NBA historical past, they usually gained 5 titles over that point and performed in six Finals general. In 10 of these 22 seasons, the Spurs made it to at the very least the convention finals.
I’ve at all times checked out San Antonio because the New England Patriots of the NBA. Some would possibly disagree, however there are numerous similarities within the lengthy runs of those franchises. Each groups had sustained success and dominated for 20 years. The Patriots gained six Tremendous Bowls whereas the Spurs took dwelling 5 Larry O’Brien trophies.
Each had their all-time nice franchise gamers for many of, if not the whole run in Tom Brady and Tim Duncan. Each organizations are led by no-nonsense coaches with Popovich and Invoice Belichick. Each coaches have had assistants transfer on to change into head coaches themselves. Their dynasties ran parallel to one another of their respective sports activities. Positive, the Spurs by no means gained back-to-back titles however it’s robust to witness that a lot success and never name it a dynasty.