Gregg Popovich

Gregg Charles Popovich (born January 28, 1949)[1] is an American professional basketball coach and executive. He is the president and head coach of the San Antonio Spurs of the National Basketball Association (NBA), and head coach of the U.S. national team.

Gregg Popovich
Gregg Popovich speaks at the White House 2015-01-12 (cropped).jpg
Popovich speaking at the White House in 2015
San Antonio Spurs
PositionPresident/Head coach
Personal information
Born (1949-01-28) January 28, 1949 (age 72)
East Chicago, Indiana
Listed height6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Career information
High schoolMerrillville (Merrillville, Indiana)
CollegeAir Force (1966–1970)
Coaching career1973–present
Career history
As coach:
1973–1979Air Force (assistant)
1986–1987Kansas (assistant)
19881992San Antonio Spurs (assistant)
19921994Golden State Warriors (assistant)
1996–presentSan Antonio Spurs
Career highlights and awards
As head coach:

Taking over as coach of the Spurs in 1996, Popovich is the longest tenured active coach in both the NBA and all major sports leagues in the United States. He is often called "Coach Pop" or simply "Pop" and is widely regarded as one of the greatest coaches in NBA history.[2][3]

Popovich has the most wins in NBA history (regular season and playoffs), surpassing Lenny Wilkens and Don Nelson on April 13, 2019. He led the Spurs to a winning record in his first 22 full seasons as head coach, surpassing Phil Jackson for the most consecutive winning seasons in NBA history. During his tenure, the Spurs have had a winning record against every other NBA team. Popovich has led the Spurs to all five of their NBA titles, and is one of only five coaches in NBA history to have won five titles.[4][5] In 2021, he led Team USA to the gold medal in the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Early life and educationEdit

Popovich was born in East Chicago, Indiana, on January 28, 1949, to a Serbian father and a Croatian mother.[6][7] He attended Merrillville High School and graduated in 1970 from the United States Air Force Academy. He played basketball for four seasons at the Academy, and in his senior year was the team captain and leading scorer.[8] He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Soviet Studies and underwent Air Force intelligence training.[9] He later earned a master's degree in physical education and sports sciences at the University of Denver.[10] At one point, Popovich considered a career with the Central Intelligence Agency.[11][12]

Popovich served five years of required active duty in the United States Air Force, during which he toured Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union with the U.S. Armed Forces Basketball Team.[12] In 1972, he was selected as captain of the Armed Forces Team, which won the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) championship. This earned him an invitation to the 1972 U.S. Olympic Basketball Team trials.[13]

Coaching careerEdit

Pomona-Pitzer and early career (1973–1994)Edit

Popovich returned to the Air Force Academy as an assistant coach in 1973 under head coach Hank Egan, a position he held for six years. Egan later became an assistant coach under Popovich for the San Antonio Spurs.

During his time with the coaching staff of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Popovich attended the University of Denver and earned his master's degree in physical education and sports sciences. In 1979, he was named the head basketball coach of Pomona-Pitzer's men's team. Popovich coached Pomona-Pitzer men's basketball from 1979 to 1988, leading the team to its first outright title in 68 years.[14]

During his time as head coach at Pomona-Pitzer, Popovich became a disciple and later a close friend of head coach Larry Brown at the University of Kansas. Popovich took off the 1985–86 season at Pomona-Pitzer to become a volunteer assistant at Kansas, where he could study directly under Brown. Popovich returned to Pomona-Pitzer and resumed his duties as head coach the next season.

Following the 1987–88 season, Popovich joined Brown as the lead assistant coach for the Spurs. From 1988 to 1992, Popovich was Brown's top assistant, until the entire staff, including R. C. Buford, Alvin Gentry and Ed Manning, were fired by owner Red McCombs. Popovich moved to the Golden State Warriors for a brief stint in 1992, serving as an assistant under future Hall of Famer Don Nelson and bringing with him Avery Johnson, who had been cut by the Spurs.

San Antonio Spurs (1994–present)Edit

Popovich in 2010

In 1994, Popovich returned to San Antonio as the general manager and vice president of basketball operations after Peter Holt purchased the team. Popovich's first move was to sign Avery Johnson as the team's starting point guard. Another one of Popovich's early moves in San Antonio was to trade Dennis Rodman to the Chicago Bulls for Will Perdue.[15] Rodman was not fond of Popovich, as Rodman said in his first book, Bad As I Wanna Be.[16]

After the Spurs had a 3–15 start in the 1996–97 season, with David Robinson sidelined with a preseason back injury, Popovich fired coach Bob Hill and named himself head coach. Robinson then broke his foot after only six games and was lost for the season. Sean Elliott was also limited to 39 games due to injury, and Chuck Person missed the entire season. With a reduced roster that included an aging Dominique Wilkins, the Spurs struggled and won only 17 games for the remainder of the season for an overall record of 20–62. The Spurs' disastrous season allowed them the first overall pick in the 1997 NBA draft, which they used to draft Tim Duncan out of Wake Forest University.

The Spurs blossomed as the 6'11" Duncan teamed up with the 7'1" Robinson in a "Twin Tower" offense and defense for several years. After recovering to win 56 games in 1997–1998 (Popovich's first full year as coach), the Spurs won their first NBA title in 1999.

In 2002, Popovich relinquished his position as general manager to R. C. Buford, who had served as the team's head scout. Popovich and Buford were both given their starts in the NBA in 1988 as assistants on Brown's coaching staff with the Spurs.

Popovich has won five championships with the Spurs—1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014. He was named NBA Coach of the Year in 2003, 2012, and 2014.

On April 4, 2008, Popovich returned to the U.S. Air Force Academy to receive the academy's award of Distinguished Graduate. Despite his four NBA titles at the time, Popovich said it was the most meaningful award he had ever received.[17]

On May 2, 2012, Popovich won his second Coach of the Year Award for the 2011–12 NBA season.[18]

Popovich interview by David Aldridge

On November 29, 2012, Popovich sat out starters Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginóbili, and Danny Green for a nationally televised game against the Miami Heat. Popovich frequently sat out his starters on road trips over the years to ensure they have enough rest for the playoffs; the Spurs' roster was among the oldest in the league. NBA commissioner David Stern was outraged by this and said on the night of the game that it was "unacceptable", and "substantial sanctions [would] be forthcoming".[19] On November 30, Stern fined the Spurs $250,000 for what he called "a disservice to the league and the fans". According to Stern, Popovich had not informed the Heat, the league or the media in a suitable time frame that the four players were not making the trip to Miami.[20] Stern's decision was criticized by commentator Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, who said, "Stern doesn't care about the realities of his league, just the appearances. To him, the appearance on Thursday night was that Popovich had tried to embarrass him on national television and that's why the commissioner tossed that tantrum."[21]

Popovich led the Spurs to the 2013 NBA Finals to face the Miami Heat. The series lasted seven games, but the Spurs had their first-ever Finals loss.

Popovich during a regular-season game in 2011

On April 22, 2014, Popovich was awarded the Red Auerbach Trophy as he won the NBA Coach of the Year for the third time.[22] He also won his fifth NBA championship with San Antonio that season, beating the Heat 4–1 in the Finals.

On February 9, 2015, Popovich became the ninth coach in NBA history to win 1,000 games when the Spurs defeated the Indiana Pacers 95–93. He and Jerry Sloan are the only two coaches in NBA history to win 1,000 games with one franchise.

On August 1, 2015, Popovich served as Team Africa's head coach at the 2015 NBA Africa exhibition game.[23]

In the 2015–16 season, Popovich led the Spurs to a franchise-high 67 wins, but he and the team lost in the conference semifinals against the Oklahoma City Thunder in six games.

On February 4, 2017, Popovich recorded his 1,128th regular season win with one franchise, surpassing Sloan.[24]

On April 13, 2019, Popovich surpassed Lenny Wilkens and became the all-time winningest coach in NBA history with his 1,413th win (regular season and playoffs combined).[25]

Popovich supported the comments from NBA commissioner Adam Silver surrounding the controversy with the NBA and China.[26][27]

On March 27, 2021, after leading his team to a 120–104 victory against the Chicago Bulls, Popovich won his 1,300th regular season game and became the third NBA coach to reach the milestone.[28]

National team careerEdit

Popovich served on the coaching staff for the U.S. men's national team during the 2002 FIBA World Championship (assisting George Karl),[29] during the 2003 FIBA America Men's Olympic Qualifying Tournament, and during the Athens 2004 Olympic Games (assisting Larry Brown), where the U.S. team won the bronze medal.

On October 23, 2015, Popovich was named the head coach of the U.S. men's national team, taking over from Mike Krzyzewski after the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.[30]

At the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, the U.S. national team finished in seventh place, its worst finish ever in international competition.[31]

With Popovich serving as the head coach for the U.S. men's national team, he led the team to a gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games by defeating France 87–82 (avenged from a 83–76 loss on July 25, 2021, in Saitama, Japan).[32][33]

Personal lifeEdit

Popovich, with Secretary of Defense William Cohen and Spurs' player David Robinson, speaks to Junior ROTC cadets from local high schools (2000)

Popovich was married to Erin Popovich until her death on April 18, 2018; the couple had two children.[34]

Popovich is a serious wine collector, and an investor in Oregon's A to Z Wineworks.[35]

On multiple occasions, Popovich has spoken out on behalf of social justice issues, including in support of the Women's March. He also repeatedly criticized the behavior of former U.S. President Donald Trump.[36][37][38][9][39] Popovich endorsed Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.[40]

Humanitarian workEdit

Popovich has spent considerable time and money working with several charities and nonprofits such as the San Antonio Food Bank and the Innocence Project. He also took part in Shoes That Fit, an organization that aims to deliver shoes to more than 200 students at Gates Elementary School affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.[41] Popovich is helping raise funds for J/P HRO, a disaster relief program that operates in Haiti, and various disaster relief organizations in the U.S. and Caribbean.[42]

Head coaching recordEdit


Statistics overview
Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens (Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) (1979–1986)
1979–80 Pomona-Pitzer 2–22 1–11 6th
1980–81 Pomona-Pitzer 10–15 3–9 6th
1981–82 Pomona-Pitzer 9–17 6–6
1982–83 Pomona-Pitzer 12–11 6–4
1983–84 Pomona-Pitzer 9–17 6–6
1984–85 Pomona-Pitzer 11–14 7–5
1985–86 Pomona-Pitzer 16–12 8–2 1st NCAA D-III Regional Fourth Place[43]
Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens (Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) (1987–1988)
1987–88 Pomona-Pitzer 7–19 4–6
Pomona-Pitzer: 76–129 41–49
Total: 76–129

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion


Regular season G Games coached W Games won L Games lost W–L % Win–loss %
Playoffs PG Playoff games PW Playoff wins PL Playoff losses PW–L % Playoff win–loss %
Team Year G W L W–L% Finish PG PW PL PW–L% Result
San Antonio 1996–97 64 17 47 .266 6th in Midwest Missed playoffs
San Antonio 1997–98 82 56 26 .683 2nd in Midwest 9 4 5 .444 Lost in Conference Semifinals
San Antonio 1998–99 50 37 13 .740 1st in Midwest 17 15 2 .882 Won NBA Championship
San Antonio 1999–00 82 53 29 .646 2nd in Midwest 4 1 3 .250 Lost in First Round
San Antonio 2000–01 82 58 24 .707 1st in Midwest 13 7 6 .538 Lost in Conference Finals
San Antonio 2001–02 82 58 24 .707 1st in Midwest 10 4 6 .400 Lost in Conference Semifinals
San Antonio 2002–03 82 60 22 .732 1st in Midwest 24 16 8 .667 Won NBA Championship
San Antonio 2003–04 82 57 25 .695 2nd in Midwest 10 6 4 .600 Lost in Conference Semifinals
San Antonio 2004–05 82 59 23 .720 1st in Southwest 23 16 7 .696 Won NBA Championship
San Antonio 2005–06 82 63 19 .768 1st in Southwest 13 7 6 .538 Lost in Conference Semifinals
San Antonio 2006–07 82 58 24 .707 2nd in Southwest 20 16 4 .800 Won NBA Championship
San Antonio 2007–08 82 56 26 .683 2nd in Southwest 17 9 8 .529 Lost in Conference Finals
San Antonio 2008–09 82 54 28 .659 1st in Southwest 5 1 4 .200 Lost in First Round
San Antonio 2009–10 82 50 32 .610 2nd in Southwest 10 4 6 .400 Lost in Conference Semifinals
San Antonio 2010–11 82 61 21 .744 1st in Southwest 6 2 4 .333 Lost in First Round
San Antonio 2011–12 66 50 16 .758 1st in Southwest 14 10 4 .714 Lost in Conference Finals
San Antonio 2012–13 82 58 24 .707 1st in Southwest 21 15 6 .714 Lost in NBA Finals
San Antonio 2013–14 82 62 20 .756 1st in Southwest 23 16 7 .696 Won NBA Championship
San Antonio 2014–15 82 55 27 .671 3rd in Southwest 7 3 4 .429 Lost in First Round
San Antonio 2015–16 82 67 15 .817 1st in Southwest 10 6 4 .600 Lost in Conference Semifinals
San Antonio 2016–17 82 61 21 .744 1st in Southwest 16 8 8 .500 Lost in Conference Finals
San Antonio 2017–18 82 47 35 .573 3rd in Southwest 5 1 4 .200 Lost in First Round
San Antonio 2018–19 82 48 34 .585 2nd in Southwest 7 3 4 .429 Lost in First Round
San Antonio 2019–20 71 32 39 .451 4th in Southwest Missed playoffs
San Antonio 2020–21 72 33 39 .458 3rd in Southwest Missed playoffs
Career 1,963 1,310 653 .667 284 170 114 .599

National teamEdit

Team Year G W L W–L% Tournament TG TW TL PW–L% Result
United States 2019 12 9 3 .750 World Cup 8 6 2 .750 7th place
United States 2021 10 7 3 .700 Olympics 6 5 1 .833 Won gold medal
Career 22 16 6 .727 14 11 3 .786


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ John Grasso (November 15, 2010). Historical Dictionary of Basketball. Scarecrow Press. pp. 299–. ISBN 978-0-8108-7506-7.
  2. ^ Wetzel, Dan (June 14, 2007). "French connection". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved April 17, 2008.
  3. ^ "Devin Brown And Coach Pop Spread Message To Local Youth". February 1, 2004. Archived from the original on July 27, 2008. Retrieved March 5, 2008.
  4. ^ "Gregg Popovich Named 2017–20 USA National Team Head Coach". USA Basketball. October 23, 2015. Retrieved February 11, 2016.
  5. ^ "2018–19 Official NBA Guide" (PDF). p. 197. Retrieved November 1, 2018.
  6. ^ Wojnarowski, Adrian (June 10, 2007). "'Pop' art". Yahoo! Sports. Sometimes, you get the idea that Popovich is fighting a war within himself. "He's even got the Serbo-Croatian conflict going on", Buford said. "His mother was Croatian and his father was Serbian. That's the battle he faces internally."
  7. ^ "The Spurs Speak Out, in Different Languages". June 11, 2014. Retrieved February 24, 2018 – via ...born in East Chicago, Ind., to a Serbian father and Croatian mother, ...
  8. ^ David L. Porter (2005). Basketball: A Biographical Dictionary. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 380–. ISBN 978-0-313-30952-6.
  9. ^ a b Draper, Kevin (January 21, 2017). "Gregg Popovich Expresses Support For The Women's March, Again Criticizes Donald Trump". Deadspin. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
  10. ^ Association, National Basketball Conditioning Coaches (2007). Complete Conditioning for Basketball. Human Kinetics. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-7360-5784-4.
  11. ^ "What We Should Know About Gregg Popovich Before He Coached The Spurs". Forbes. Retrieved May 4, 2019. He considered other jobs, such as the CIA.
  12. ^ a b "Gregg Popovich doubles down on Trump criticism: 'Some days, I feel like we've been invaded'". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 4, 2019. Popovich, whose degree is in Soviet studies, at one point considered working for the CIA.
  13. ^ "Gregg Popovich 'belonged' on 1972 Olympic basketball team". San Antonio Express-News. August 23, 2016. Retrieved May 4, 2019.
  14. ^ "Long before NBA titles, Spurs' Popovich says he 'fell in love' with DIII lifestyle at Pomona-Pitzer". The Student Life. May 6, 2020. Retrieved May 7, 2020.
  15. ^ PRO BASKETBALL;Unhappy Rodman Is Dealt From Spurs to the Bulls. New York Times, October 3, 1995
  16. ^ Rodman, Dennis (1996), Bad as I Wanna Be, Delacorte Press, p. 85
  17. ^ "Gregg Popovich honored at Air Force Academy". KOAA. April 4, 2008. Archived from the original on December 1, 2008.
  18. ^ Official Release. "Spurs' Popovich named Coach of the Year". Archived from the original on May 7, 2012.
  19. ^ David Stern: Sanctions coming. ESPN, November 30, 2012.
  20. ^ Spurs fined $250,000 for 'disservice'. ESPN, November 30, 2012.
  21. ^ Adrian Wojnarowski (November 30, 2012). "David Stern stumbles again in his failed culture war against the Spurs, fines franchise $250K". Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  22. ^ "Spurs' Gregg Popovich named 2013–14 Coach of the Year". Archived from the original on May 8, 2014. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  23. ^ "NBA stars, legends shine as Team World rallies to beat Team Africa". August 1, 2015. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  24. ^ "Gregg Popovich gets NBA-record 1,128th regular season win as Spurs beat Nuggets". February 5, 2017. Retrieved February 5, 2017.
  25. ^ "NBA Playoffs 2019: Spurs' Gregg Popovich becomes winningest coach in NBA history". Retrieved April 14, 2019.
  26. ^ "NBA's Gregg Popovich rips Trump, defends Adam Silver over China". Fox Business. October 15, 2019.
  27. ^ "Gregg Popovich offers support for NBA commissioner Adam Silver on NBA-China showdown". USA Today. October 9, 2019.
  28. ^ Wright, Michael C. (March 27, 2021). "Gregg Popovich becomes 3rd coach in NBA history to reach 1,300 wins". Retrieved March 30, 2021.
  29. ^ 2002 USA Basketball Archived July 14, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ "Gregg Popovich Named 2017–20 USA National Team Head Coach". USA Basketball. October 23, 2015. Retrieved October 24, 2015.
  31. ^ Chiari, Mike (September 12, 2019). "Team USA Loses to Serbia After Stunning Defeat to France in 2019 FIBA World Cup". Bleacher Report. Retrieved February 27, 2020.
  32. ^ McCallum, Jack (August 7, 2021). "Why More Americans Aren't Happy for Gregg Popovich". The Atlantic. Retrieved August 13, 2021.
  33. ^ Helin, Kurt (August 7, 2021). "Watch Gregg Popovich do defensive shuffles after gold medal win". NBC Sports. Retrieved August 13, 2021.
  34. ^ "Spurs announce that Gregg Popovich's wife Erin Popovich has died".
  35. ^ Steiman, Harvey (July 5, 2006). "That Li'l Ol' Winemaker, Popovich". Wine Spectator. Retrieved October 11, 2020.
  36. ^ Cacciola, Scott (November 12, 2016). "Emboldened N.B.A. Coaches Rip Donald J. Trump's Rhetoric". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 15, 2017.
  37. ^ Babb, Kent (February 17, 2017). "Gregg Popovich has found the opponent of his life: President Trump". Washington Post. Retrieved May 15, 2017.
  38. ^ Savransky, Rebecca (May 14, 2017). "Spurs coach Gregg Popovich goes after 'embarrassing' President Trump". TheHill. Retrieved May 15, 2017.
  39. ^ Mendoza, Madalyn; Rohlin, Melissa (September 25, 2017). "Popovich slams Trump's 'childishness,' 'gratuitous fear-mongering' after political sports weekend". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved September 25, 2017.
  40. ^ Mendoza, Madalyn (November 12, 2020). "Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich endorses Joe Biden for U.S. President". Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  41. ^ "Popovich: If you're 'rich as hell,' give to charity".
  42. ^ "Gregg Popovich stands up for charity: 'We're rich as hell, and we don't need it all'".
  43. ^ "1986 Division III men's basketball tournament". D3hoops. Retrieved October 2, 2016.
  44. ^ "Gregg Popovich". USA Basketball. Archived from the original on July 3, 2021. Retrieved July 3, 2021.

External linksEdit