Popovich: The Disciple Universe of a Generation of Masters

As the top two coaches in league history, Popovich and Don Nelson have a deep connection. Being an assistant coach for Nelson in the Warriors is one of Popo’s few deputy assistants. Finally, on March 12, 2022, the two old men completed the torch relay of the number of victories. 33 years of magnificent coaching career, Popovich left valuable assets and talents for the NBA world. Looking at the current league, not only championship coaches Kerr and Budenholzer, the Bobo coaches are already the largest in the league.

Steve Kerr

As a player, Kerr had two in and two outs with the Spurs. In his first year with the Spurs, Kerr won his fourth consecutive NBA championship. Two years later, in June 2001, the Spurs sent Kerr to the Blazers as a bargaining chip for Steve Smith. After a year with the “Portland Prisons”, Kerr, 37, retired with his fifth championship with the Spurs. Although he has played for famous coaches such as Luke Olsen, Lanny Wilkens and Phil Jackson, Popovich’s influence on Kerr is probably the deepest.

Popovich was a young coach when Kerr first came to the Spurs. While uncertain about the future, Kerr quickly fell in love with Popovich’s straight-forward personality. Pop would ask Cole about his father who was assassinated in Beirut, and Cole had a strong sense that Pop wanted to know everything about him. Like many old people, he is also an old man with a “knife mouth and tofu heart”.

Popovich is still a rough guy. Players at the end of the bench struggle to survive on an NBA team, and if he encounters an impatient coach, his confidence may soon collapse. These all made Kerr say that he met a good guy: “If he yelled at me, he might have destroyed me. Because I didn’t have much confidence, I struggled to come from Chicago to a new system, and Bob knows people like us. , we’re supporting roles. As a coach you need to know your cards, know your team.”

Kerr learned a lot from Popovich during his four years with the Spurs. Even though the Warriors have been very successful, Kerr dare not forget the nutrition he got from his predecessors. As early as when Cole played for Pop, the old man thought he was a coach: “Some people may only be role players when they are players, but you know their game instinct is very good, and they have natural leadership skills. They are still Great guy, great communication skills, great training attitude, great emotional intelligence.” Those are the qualities Pop saw in Kerr.

After Popovich retired from the USA Basketball team, Kerr successfully took over his coaching role, which was a much-anticipated result.

Mike Budenholzer

If you want to choose an active coach with the most steals, Budenholzer must be the number one candidate. Beginning in 1996, he was an assistant coach with the Spurs for 17 years. In the second season after his solo career, Budenholzer won the Coach of the Year award. Popovich was Buden’s most-mentioned name in his acceptance speech. From the old man, he learned a lot: “What Pop has done for me and a lot of coaches is to give me the pointer, which seems very simple, and this is one of the wonderful things about being around Pop and working with him. He said the most successful careers are sometimes made up of the simplest things. He gave us the opportunity to coach with him.”

And there are plenty of Spurs elements on the Bucks’ 2021 championship journey. In addition to Budenholzer, a Popo apprentice, Bucks assistant Chad Fosher is also a former Spurs assistant. He worked under Pop for 9 years, and it was not until 2019 that Fosher joined Buden’s team. After experiencing a lot of controversy in 2021, Buden led the Bucks to win the championship and became another Bobo coach after Kerr.

Budenholzer said his greatest wish is to coach a team for more than 20 years. Sure enough, before the start of the season, his contract was extended to 2025 by the Bucks.

Doug Rivers

In December 1994, Popovich, then the general manager of the Spurs, acquired 33-year-old Doc Rivers from the Knicks. A former All-Star point guard, Rivers is in the twilight of his career, with Bob Hill being his last head coach. Like all veterans who are about to retire, Rivers can only be used as a backup for Avery Johnson. During his two years with the Spurs, Rivers watched David Robinson win the only regular season MVP of his career and became teammates with Dennis Rodman.

Looking at Lao Li’s career, he can only be regarded as a point guard on the edge of the All-Star team. However, similar to the now popular Director Lu, he had the idea of ​​becoming an NBA coach very early. In 1999, the 38-year-old Rivers replaced Chuck Daly as the Magic’s head coach. What he received was a mess in which O’Neal and “Penny” Hardaway left the team one after another, but Lao Li brought the Magic into a team with a winning percentage. In his first year as coach, he beat Phil Jackson to win the Coach of the Year award.

Although Popovich never coached Rivers for a day, he still respects the elder one round older than him. The Spurs started the 1998-99 season with 6 wins and 8 losses, and Popovich once encountered a crisis of dismissal. At the time, there were already multiple voices, including within the Spurs, that Rivers would be Popovich’s replacement. Former Spurs player Malik Rose gave Popovich a deadline. In fact, of course, nothing happened. Rivers said it doesn’t feel good to be involved in such messages.

In the offseason of 2000, the famous “Magic poaching Duncan” happened. If he could come to Orlando, Rivers would team up with McGrady and Grant Hill. Before agreeing to the Magic, Duncan had one last meeting with the Spurs team, and it turned out that Duncan was still reluctant to leave the Spurs. If Rivers succeeded in poaching this time, he may have been blocked by Popovich.

Popovich has a lot in common with Rivers, and after losing Game 7 in the 2013 Finals, Pop called Rivers to ask how he survived the same situation in 2010. Then in the first round of the 2015 playoffs, Rivers made Pop experience that feeling again. Over the years, Lao Li’s coaching history has accumulated more and more, but he has always been a friend of Popovich.

James Borrego

Borrego is the first Hispanic NBA coach in history. He hasn’t played a minute in the NBA, and his three years at the University of San Diego are all his player experiences. What was Popovich’s first impression of Borrego? No impression, he didn’t even call the young man’s name wrong. Popo likes to make surprise attacks, letting the junior Boggo speak at team meetings. That’s the first lesson Popovich taught Borrego about getting everyone in the locker room involved. Whether you’re a coach, video analyst or equipment manager, it’s only by being a part of it that you’ll have the passion for the job.

Borrego spent seven years with the Spurs and saw the team win championships in 2005 and 2007. He does everything, and occasionally acts as a “human crutch” when the team is injured. Borrego tried to go solo in 2010, but after going through the Spurs’ team culture to the Pelicans and the Magic, Borrego found himself too young. So, he rebuilt for three years at the Spurs. In 2018, Borrego finally got the call of the NBA team, and he became the head coach of the Hornets. At the same time, he forced the host team to sign 36-year-old Tony Parker.

Borrego impressed Popovich most with being “smart,” and he’s been a video analyst for a long time. With him in the locker room, everyone’s IQ has improved significantly. Diligence is the common strength of Borrego and Popovich. Borrego, who is an assistant coach at the Spurs, will get up at 6 in the morning, and Popovich will arrive two hours before everyone to study the game video.

Borrego also took inspiration from Pop coaching Ginobili while coaching the Hornets. Both Ball and Manu Ginobili were wild artists, and all you had to do was give him the stage.

Mike Brown

Twice coaching the Cavaliers, Mike Brown was labeled as a “LeBron vassal”. He was always smiling with his mouth open, and he didn’t have the majesty of a traditional coach in people’s impressions. Even with one Coach of the Year award, Brown’s coaching ability is not highly rated. As for his experience with the Spurs, he was also taken away. It’s true that Brown’s head coaching career was not successful, and caustic fans would call him a contract liar — the second time he coached the Cavaliers, he took a five-year, $20 million contract and was kicked out just 13 months later. But as a master, Popovich would never see Brown that way. He knew the little fat man better than anyone. The first lesson Bobo taught Brown was family.

Brown was an assistant coach with the Spurs in 2002, when he and his wife, Caroline, had separated. Brown’s sister was visiting him from Colorado with his two sons for a brief time. On the way to the airport, it was also hard to see two children, Brown, who were crying. Time waits for no one, the team is about to go to Chicago to play on the road. Brown called Popovich and asked to be late. Popovich said directly: “You better not come (away), if you insist on getting on this plane, you will be fired.” Then Popovich hung up the phone quickly. In this way, Brown stayed with his son for two more days. Brown knew that Master was a humane old man.

As a hilarious person, Mike Brown has done a lot of ridiculous things. In the first round of the 2006 Cavaliers playoffs, the Wizards were eliminated 4-2. Damon Jones made a lore in the bottom corner in the last 4.8 seconds of Game 6. Excited Cavaliers threw Jones down in celebration, joined by Mike Brown in a fat yellow suit. Seeing this on TV, Popovich called Brown specifically and told him not to do it. Brown’s mood hit rock bottom when he was fired for the second time by the Cavaliers in 2014. Popovich took the initiative to call him and immediately offered him a job on the team. Brown was able to go to team meetings and be with everyone.

After Walton was poached by the Lakers in 2016, Kerr’s coaching staff was vacant. He called Popovich and asked him to recommend a fill. Bobo was heartbroken for Brown, facing the excellence of Cole Ann Lee Brown, and at the same time persuaded Brown to take the job, because he has been away from the NBA for too long. After dating for more than ten years, Popovich and Brown have been in love with each other.

Alvin Gentry

Popovich is currently the oldest NBA coach, behind him is Kings coach Gentry, 68. Lao Jin’s coaching career began in 1988, when he partnered with Popovich as an assistant to the famous coach Larry Brown. During one season with the Spurs, Gentry met his second wife, Susan, who worked in the Spurs’ sales department. The two married in 1990 and have been together for more than 30 years. Unlike Popovich, Gentry is a representative of the “wandering coach”, his footprints from the east coast to the west coast. Whether he had a good or bad hand, Gentry was always trying to find the joy of coaching.

The Gentry and Popovich families have been together for more than 40 years, and the Gentry and the Popovich are very close. According to King, he was an assistant coach for Popovich for six weeks before accepting the Clippers head coaching job.

Monty Williams

Monty’s resume as a player was extremely mediocre, without any awards, and only averaged 9 points per game in his career-high season. He played two seasons under Popovich starting in February 1996. At that time, Monty had just entered the league, and he was still a young boy. Popovich’s way of doing things made him very uncomfortable. The old man would scold you in practice and then call and invite you to dinner. And the most important coaching philosophy Monty learned from Popo was “training hard and caring for teammates off the court.”

While playing for the Magic in 2000, Monty became a member of Duncan’s recruiting team, but that didn’t affect his relationship with Pop. After Monty retired for the 2004-05 season, Popovich recruited him into his assistant coaching team. In Monty’s first year, the Spurs beat the Pistons in Game 7 of the Finals. As a newcomer who has just joined for a year, Monty is a little transparent like Gu Ying’s self-pity, but Bobo found him in the team in the celebration crowd, and the old man teased that he also has a championship ring. It made Monty grateful that Pop discovered his worth.

The most rare thing in life is that someone is willing to help in times of trouble. 2016 was a dark year in Monty’s life when his wife Ingrid, 44, died in a car accident while working as an assistant in the Thunder. Couples who have been married for 20 years are separated from each other forever, and no one can bear such a blow. The Spurs had a game that night, and Popovich found time to call Monty. After a sad Monty left the Thunder, when he appeared in the public eye again, he was already the Spurs’ vice president of basketball affairs.

After Monty went through the assistant coaching test and became the head coach of the Suns, Popo quickly recruited him into his assistant coaching team in the USA Men’s Basketball Team. Popovich played a huge role in Monty’s eventual recovery from the loss of his wife.

Quinn Schneider

With sharp edges and deep eyes, Quinn Schneider has the face of a Hollywood actor, but Schneider’s coaching career didn’t start well. From 2007-10, he coached the Spurs’ G League team, the Austin Bulls (now the Austin Spurs), a team 75 miles from San Antonio. During his three years in charge of the team, Schneider led the team to the 2008 G League championship, and he was the G League’s coach of the year in 2009. And after the Bulls season, Schneider will join the Spurs coaching staff immediately. On the Spurs team bus, Schneider felt like a part of the team. At team meetings, Schneider will also be asked by Popovich to make impromptu speeches, which is the old man’s constant hobby.

Even when coaching in the G League, Schneider drew nourishment from the Spurs coaching staff at any time, and asked then assistant coach Budenholzer how to crack the zone defense. After Budenholzer went to coach the Eagles, Schneider quickly joined his coaching team.

And when the Jazz were looking for a replacement for Tyrone Corbyn, Schneider’s chance came. Team general manager Dennis Lindsay served as assistant general manager for the Spurs, and Lindsay’s assistant Brad Jones also served as head coach of the Bulls for two years. After the coach’s job fell from the sky, Schneider has been doing it for 8 years. Schneider will get a “well done” congratulations from Popovich after his team beat the Spurs.

Michael Malone

Malone started out as Popovich’s drinking buddy, and in 2005 when he was an assistant coach at the Knicks, Malone got the opportunity to go to Argentina with Popovich to participate in the “Basketball Without Borders” event. Spent a week in those two and drank countless drinks. The two are very close. In Bobo’s eyes, Ma Long understands the ball very well, has high emotional intelligence, and is very competitive. Popovich has been taken care of by seniors such as Larry Brown, and he is willing to take care of young people he knows.

The old man became Malone’s nobleman. The latter served as an assistant in the Cavaliers and the Hornets. It was Popovich who greeted Mike Brown and Monty Williams. Five years with the Cavaliers meant a lot to Malone. He witnessed the LeBron James of the 1.0 era and became good friends with the latter.

And after Malone became the coach of the Kings, Popovich also passed on his own experience to his old friend: maintain his own personality, coach players and let him feel that you care about him at the same time. After Malone was fired by the Kings, Popovich called him immediately. In the blink of an eye, Malone has coached the Nuggets for 7 years.

He is one of the most consistent head coaches in the NBA.

Taylor Jenkins

As Popovich grayed his hair and became an old man with a white beard, many active young coaches became his “grandchildren”. They learned from pop coaches like Budden and Monty, and then had a place in the league, as in the case of Grizzlies coach Tyler Jenkins.

Since 2008, Jenkins has coached the Spurs’ G League team, the Austin Spurs. Similar to Schneider, Jenkins also had plenty of one-on-one opportunities with Popovich. The Popovich he remembered had high expectations for himself, and he wanted to give it all. In his 20s, he was immersed in the Spurs system. In addition to technical and tactical skills, Jenkins also learned that coaches are not superior, but should be in harmony with the players. After 3 years of hard work by Jenkins, the Grizzlies have taken one step at a time. They are very hopeful this year to hit 50 wins in a single season for the fifth time in team history.

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