There are certain things men brag about in their life — cars, children, the size of the fish they caught. Rarely do you find a man bragging about his success in his job, and even more rarely do you hear this bragging from the mouth of Gregg Popovich. But let it be known, Pop should be bragging, as the NBA recently named him Coach of the Year.
On May 1st, Gregg Popovich was awarded the Red Auerbach Trophy for NBA Coach of the Year. Through his hard work and over 16 years with the San Antonio Spurs, he has driven the organization to success both on and off the court. He has taken experienced and inexperienced players in all of his seasons and crafted a respectful and hard-working group of men that are consistently deemed the best team in the nation, and for more reasons than just their winning seasons.
The last 15 of 16 years that Gregg Popovich has been with the San Antonio Spurs, he has led them to post-season play: the best record in the league, with no one getting close to those same numbers. It helps when you also have the longest tenure with one organization in all four major league professional sports. “He’s put us in a position to be successful. For everybody who has been a part of our team, he has been a mentor and friend, constantly stressing that the real rewards come from caring for each other and trusting each other,” said R.C. Buford, general manager of the Spurs organization.
Popovich was amazed and gracious when receiving the award in San Antonio this last month. He was quick to recognize the numerous other coaches and their dedication, while still being humbled by the great honor.
Pop was able to share the honor with the Spurs organization, making the point that it’s the team that has earned him this award, not himself. Together they develop the players and make the program special, making sure the pieces always fit. He claims that there is synergy in the organization between the owners, the coaches, the staff and the players.
“You can see with all these people. That’s what it’s about. I’m the beneficiary. I’m the guy that’s going to get the award, but it’s really not mine. It belongs to everybody,” said Popovich.
His players continue to surprise him, though, even after all these years. He gives credit to Tim Duncan, claiming him as the true backbone to the success of the Spurs. Pop says that the success for the Spurs was all luck. To be blessed with David Robinson and then to follow it up with Tim Duncan was equivalent to years of great basketball. And the awards that both entities reap prove just that. With four NBA titles, the Spurs surely are a winning class act.
And it’s true. Rarely is negative light shone on the players or the coaches. They are family men, who go grocery shopping, take their kids to baseball, and support their community. It’s something that Popovich, maybe, has instilled in them. It may come from Pop’s open heart to helping kids, visible in his creation of the Spurs Youth Basketball League. This operation, which was opened in 1991, asks youth to stay drug- and alcohol-free while practicing fair play and good sportsmanship. It has served over 20,000 kids within the San Antonio area, and is not slowing down, expanding its vision farther south. Within the NBA, Pop is also a part of the Coaches for Kids program, which sports a similar message of healthy living and positive attitude.
All of this dedication to his team and community has once again not gone unnoticed. In 2003, Pop won his first NBA Coach of the Year honor. He took the Spurs to a World Championship ring that year. Should history repeat itself? Either way, Pop said that “Win or lose, the Spurs do it with class.”
And either way San Antonio is proud of what Gregg Popovich has done for the Spurs and what the Spurs do for San Antonio.
By: Megan L. Minus
Photos by: D. Clarke Evans NBAE/Getty Images