Friday , Jun , 15 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Pops is tops!

(Sports Network) – San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has cemented
his place in NBA history. Popovich has guided the team to an incredible four
championships and three of the last five NBA titles during his tenure with the
club.

It does also help that Popovich, who is one of three active coaches, along
with Pat Riley and Phil Jackson, with multiple titles, has had the pleasure of
coaching some great and clutch players along the way. All-Star forward Tim
Duncan, who was originally selected out of Wake Forest by the Spurs with the
first overall pick in the 1997 draft, has been with Popovich for all four
titles. Center David Robinson was a member of San Antonio’s first two
championship teams (1999, 2003), while Sean Elliot was a key contributor in
1999 and 25-year-old point guard Tony Parker, who was the 2007 NBA Finals MVP,
just keeps getting better.

Robert Horry earned his seventh ring when the Spurs swept the Cleveland
Cavaliers in this year’s finals. The 36-year-old Horry has won a pair of
titles with the Spurs, three with the Los Angeles Lakers and two with the
Houston Rockets. While Horry is not an All-Star player, he is infamous for
making big shots in the playoffs and will be remembered as one of the most
clutch players to ever play the game when he hangs up his sneakers.

Manu Ginobili was the spark off the bench in this year’s playoffs, while
defensive stopper Bruce Bowen played physical, tenacious defense against the
opposition’s top scorer. Bowen, Ginobili and Parker have all shared in the
glory of San Antonio’s last three titles.

Yes, Popovich, who is also the executive vice president of basketball
operations, is the leader for one of the most intelligent organizations in the
league. San Antonio knows how to piece together a team, by mixing veterans
with younger players to come up with a winning formula.

The scary thing is, Duncan, who is a three-time NBA Finals MVP and two-time
league MVP, is just 31-years-old and has shown no signs of slowing down, while
Parker has developed into one of the league’s top lead guards and is only
starting to play his best basketball. With Duncan and Parker leading the way,
the sky is the limit for the San Antonio franchise, Popovich and his talented
All-Stars.

“I think that is probably more than anything attributed to two things, one,
our ownership under Peter Holt allows us to do our jobs,” said Popovich after
the Spurs finished the sweep against Cleveland. “I think I mentioned in some
interview along the way here, we’ve been together, I don’t know, a decade or
something like that now, and he’s never said no to me about anything. Not one
time have I gotten a no. He just trusts us to do our jobs and do what we do.

“And secondly, I think that longevity is attributed to Timmy (Duncan) and the
other guys we’ve tried to bring in who have a certain character, a character
that’s made up of just people who have gotten over themselves, people who care
about the team more than an individual, and I think it shows in a lot of
different ways, and it makes it easy to coach that group. It makes it easy for
that group to get along because there are a lot of bus rides and plane rides,
if they get along and are happy about each other’s success. A good example
would be Manu (Ginobili), an All-Star, coming off the bench, he actually does
that. I’m still amazed, he does that. When I was in college I thought the
coach was screwing me because he didn’t start me and I didn’t make the varsity
until I was a junior. This guy is an All-Star. I asked, ‘Can you please sit on
the bench.’ And he did it. When you have those kind of guys, it’s something
special.”

Popovich, whose resume obviously speaks for itself, has paid his dues and has
learned from some of the masterminds of coaching. After spending eight years
as the head coach at Pomona-Pitzer, an NCAA Division III school, he joined San
Antonio and Hall-of-Fame head coach Larry Brown’s staff as an assistant coach
in 1988. Prior to the 1992-93 campaign, Popovich became an assistant under Don
Nelson with the Golden State Warriors.

He spent two seasons with the Warriors, before going back to San Antonio on
May 31, 1994 as the Spurs executive vice president of basketball operations
and general manager. He was named San Antonio’s head coach in December 1996,
and worked as general manager for eight seasons before giving the job to R.C.
Buford on July 1, 2002.

San Antonio’s four crowns have been won by playing solid basketball on both
ends of the court. The Spurs defeated New York in five games in 1999, New
Jersey in six in 2003, Detroit in seven in 2005 and Cleveland in four. Duncan,
Robinson and Popovich knocked out Latrell Sprewell and the Knicks for their
first title, defeated Jason Kidd and the Nets for No. 2, conquered Chauncey
Billups and the Pistons for the third and LeBron James and the up-and-coming
Cavaliers.

Popovich has done it in the front office and on the court. The mastermind of
San Antonio’s unbelievable run has managed to figure out how to keep his club
winning consistently over a long period of time. He will forever be linked to
one of the greatest players to ever play the game in Duncan. Together, they
have already achieved much and there is still plenty left for them to do.

Is Popovich one the greatest head coaches ever?

Yes, and his already impressive resume still has a room on it.

SAN