Popovich wins NBA coach of the year
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was named NBA coach of the year on Tuesday, making him just the third coach in league history to win the Red Auerbach trophy three times in his career.
Popovich has received the league’s top coaching honor in two of the last three seasons, joining Don Nelson and Pat Riley as the only coaches to win the award three times.
In a career full of masterful coaching performances, Popovich may have delivered his best in season No. 18.
The Spurs entered the season still thinking about the devastating loss to the Miami Heat in last summer’s classic NBA Finals. Once again thought to be too old to challenge LeBron James and the mighty Heat, the Spurs took the defending champions to seven games but couldn’t quite close it out for the franchise’s fifth NBA title.
“The way we lost in the finals wasn’t an ordinary loss, it was pretty devastating,” Popovich said on Tuesday. “We decided that we needed to just face that right off the bat at the beginning of the season and get it out of the way. Don’t blame it on the basketball gods or bad fortune or anything like that, the Miami Heat beat us and won the championship and that’s that.”
Popovich joined Don Nelson and Pat Riley as the only coaches in league history to take home the Red Auerbach trophy three times in their career.
“They’re on the hood of my car,” Popovich cracked. “One, two, three, right on the car, the way players do license plates. ... I’ve got three of those right on the hood.”
The Spurs showed up to training camp still stinging from that defeat to the Miami Heat, and Popovich had to get to know a new-look coaching staff after losing longtime assistants Brett Brown and Mike Budenholzer to head coaching jobs in Philadelphia and Atlanta.
Then he led the Spurs to a league-best 62-20 record, which gives them home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. And he did it while deftly navigating a season filled with nagging injuries to several key players. Tim Duncan was the only starter to play in at least 70 games. No Spur averaged 30 minutes per game and Tony Parker led the team with a modest 16.7 points per game.
Despite all of that, the Spurs won at least 50 games for the 15th straight season and topped 60 for the fourth time in that span, an unprecedented run of sustained excellence in the modern era.
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