San Antonio rejoices as Gregg Popovich becomes winningest coach in NBA history
Gregg Popovich now owns the record for the most regular season wins by a head coach in NBA history: 1,336.
And he’s done it all with one team – the San Antonio Spurs – over the last 26 years.
In his post-game press conference, Popovich said Friday’s dramatic 104 -102 win over the Utah Jazz was more important than the record itself. He downplayed his own success and instead credited the people around him over the years.
“Basketball's a team sport. 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, the staff that I've been blessed with, the support of this wonderful city. The fans support us no matter what,” Popovich said in a post-game press conference. "All of us share in this record. It's not mine. It's ours, here in the city."
Popovich passed his friend and mentor Don Nelson to break the record.
“I couldn’t wait for this day to happen,” Nelson said in a tweet after the game. “I just want to tell you how proud I am of you for all your accomplishments and all you’ve done for basketball worldwide.”
Congratulations have poured in on social media from San Antonio and around the world as residents, politicians, and business leaders all united around their appreciation of Coach Pop.
The 73-year-old Popovich is the longest tenured head coach of any of the four major U.S. sports. He has won five NBA championships with the Spurs.
As he closed in on the record, reporters asked him what his key to success was. "Keys to success?" Popovich responded. "Draft Tim Duncan. After that, stay alive."
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Popovich's success with the Spurs has been unprecedented.
"So it's only fitting that he now holds the record for most career wins," 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."
Popovich has also been celebrated off the court for using his platform to speak out against racism. After the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, he released this emotional message on twitter.
"I think I'm just embarrassed as a white person to know that can happen. To actually watch a lynching." he said. "We've all seen books and you see Black people hanging on trees. You are amazed that we just saw it again. I'd never thought I'd see that with my own eyes in real time."
Popovich has also spoken out about police accountability and the treatment of migrants at the border.
He's taken on some of the most politically charged topics without losing much fanbase, something not easy to do in such a divisive time.
Over time, the accolades and excitement over this latest achievement will fade as Popovich leads the Spurs into more games and against new opponents.
His enduring legacy may be as that public role model with a moral voice.
Compassion, empathy, humility, teamwork — infusing those values into Spurs fans, and into the young minds of San Antonio — may end up being Coach Pop's greatest victory.