Popovich passes Nelson as NBA’s all-time winningest head coach

Posted: 12/03/2022 in NBA
Tags: , , , , , ,

With the San Antonio Spurs topping the visiting Utah Jazz 104-102 on Friday, head coach Gregg Popovich became the winningest head coach in league history, passing Don Nelson with career victory No. 1,336.

RANKNAMEWINSW%
1.Gregg Popovich1336.658
2.Don Nelson1335.557
3.Lenny Wilkens1332.536
4.Jerry Sloan1221.603
5.Pat Riley1210.636
6.George Karl1175.588
7.Phil Jackson1155.704
8.Larry Brown1098.548
9.Rick Adelman1042.582
10.Doc Rivers1032.586

Per his tradition, Popovich downplayed his role in the historic milestone after the game.

“Something like this does not belong to one individual,” Popovich said. “Basketball is a team sport, and you preach to your players that they have to do it together.

“And that’s certainly been the case in my life. With all the wonderful players and coaches, staff that I’ve been blessed with, the support of this wonderful city, the fans support us no matter what – all of us share in this record.

“It’s not mine – it’s ours, here in the city, because of all those people I just mentioned. That’s the joy of it.”

The win moves the Spurs to 26-41 on the campaign, and they now trail the 10th-seeded New Orleans Pelicans, owners of the fourth and final play-in berth, by a game.

Popovich’s legendary (and still ongoing) run as an NBA head coach had an unpromising start. The team dismissed Bob Hill not even a quarter of the way through the 1996-97 season. The 48-year-old Popovich, taking over a 3-15 squad sorely missing the services of injured 1995 MVP David Robinson, guided the team to a 20-62 finish overall – third worst in the league.

That would be the last losing campaign San Antonio posted for 22 years, largely because the club’s lack of success in 1996-97 netted the Spurs the first overall pick in the 1997 draft: Future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan. With Duncan complementing Robinson, then growing into a perennial MVP candidate in his own right alongside guards Tony Parker and Manu Ginóbili, San Antonio racked up regular-season wins with ease – including an 18-year stretch when the team never tallied fewer than 50 wins.

The titles quickly followed, too. Popovich and the Spurs captured franchise championship No. 1 at the end of the lockout-shortened 1999 campaign, barely two seasons after drafting Duncan. More hardware came in 2003, 2005, 2007, and most recently in 2014, as well as an unfruitful Finals appearance in 2013.

With Popovich at the helm of those all-time teams, he soon garnered personal accolades – presumably to the chagrin of the notoriously praise-averse bench boss. Popovich was voted Coach of the Year in 2003, 2012, and 2014, and his 17 Coach of the Month awards rank first all time. As part of the Association’s season-long 75th Anniversary celebration, the league declared Popovich one of the 15 Greatest Coaches in NBA History in February.

“Gregg Popovich’s success with the Spurs is unprecedented in our league, so it’s only fitting that he now holds the record for career wins,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “His leadership and unwavering commitment to the game are widely admired by generations of players and coaches alike.

“Congratulations to Coach Pop on this latest achievement in his legendary career.”

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