Gregg Popovich has just extended his legendary status in the NBA and the world of basketball. The win against the Utah Jazz on Friday, March 11, bagged him his 1,336th career regular game win, and thus, Popovich managed to surpass Don Nelson.
While travelling to the very top of NBA's Mount Rushmore, Popovic managed to snatch quite a lot of trophies, both on a personal and team level. His resume contains three Coach of the Year Awards (2003, 2012 and 2014), five NBA titles (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014), four NBA All-Star Game head coach awards (2005, 2011, 2013, 2016) as well as three SCIAC championships (1980, 1981 and 1982).
One of the things that made him stand out from the crowd is the fact that he is never afraid to speak openly about inequality in America. Many players even spent their whole careers playing for the 73-year-old legend.
Such is the case with the Spurs, where Popovich has been the head coach for 26 years. His loyalty to the Spurs is the longest tenure for any coach in the history of the world’s most prestigious basketball league, the NBA.
After the game, in which the Spurs won 104-102 after trailing behind Utah by 10 in the third quarter, Popovich acknowledged the milestone but noted that it doesn't belong to just one individual, which in this case, is him.
He stated that "basketball is a team sport", and the coach's job is to tell players that they have to play as one. He thanked the players who have worked with him throughout the years, as well as the fans and noted that this record is not his. Instead, it is shared by everyone and that "it's ours, here in the city."
After serving as the general manager of the Spurs, Popovich took the role of a head coach during the 1996-1997 season. That year, he helped Spurs have the top pick in the 1997 NBA Draft, and the team selected Tim Duncan, who spent his entire career playing for the Spurs under Popovich's watchful eye.
Popovich even coached Tony Parker after he was chosen in the 2001 draft. The Frenchman played for the San Antonio Spurs for all of his career except for one year. After the team retired his jersey number, he noted that Popovich was his second dad.
The reputation of this coach goes far beyond the NBA and his coaching role. As mentioned, he’s known for speaking openly about cultural and political problems in the USA, which is something that not a lot of coaches have the courage to do.
What's even more fascinating is the fact that Popovich never discouraged his players to speak openly on these topics. While speaking to the media in 2017, he noted that every team player should have the right and ability to say what's on their mind and act the way they want to act.