The San Antonio Spurs blew out the Phoenix Suns 111-86 and Gregg Popovich picked up his 1,211th win as an NBA head coach.

Gregg Popovich
Gregg Popovich spent his entire NBA career coaching the San Antonio Spurs. (Image: Adam Hunger/USA Today)

Popovich passed Pat Riley and moved into fourth place in all-time career wins. He is 125 victories away from the all-time record held by Don Nelson.

The three-time NBA Coach of the Year has spent his entire professional career coaching the San Antonio Spurs. Popovich won five NBA titles with the Spurs and his overall record is 1,211-541 with 21 consecutive winning seasons.

Top 5 NBA Career Wins
1. Don Nelson 1,335
2. Lenny Wilkins 1,332
3. Jerry Sloan 1,221
4. Gregg Popovich 1,211
5. Pat Riley 1,210

“Pops” boasts a career .686 winning percentage in the regular season. Popovich won 60.3 percent of his playoff games with a 167-110 record.

Catching Riley

Popovich, 69, moved into fourth place overall in career NBA wins ahead of Pat Riley. Popovich is on pace to catch third-place Jerry Sloan this season.

“I speak for everyone in saying that everyone feels honored to be in this position, to be in this locker room and to be coached by him,” said guard Patty Mills. “It’s an awesome achievement to get to fourth all time. You almost pinch yourself at times when you step back and realize where you are and who is coaching you.”

Although Popovich does not like to talk about his achievements, the overall record is well within his reach.

After the Spurs/Suns game, the media asked Popovich about passing Riley. Pops thanked everyone and walked out of the press conference without answering any more questions.

Air Force Origins > Larry Brown Tree

Popovich grew up in Chicago the son of Eastern European immigrants. He attended the Air Force Academy on a full scholarship. He captained the basketball team and led the Air Force in scoring.

After he graduated, Popovich spent time in the Air Force stationed in Europe and working in military intelligence. He found it boring and when his service time ended, he returned to the United States and opted for a career in coaching hoops.

In 1986, Larry Brown hired Popovich as one of his assistant coaches at Kansas. When Brown moved onto the NBA to coach the San Antonio Spurs, he hired Popovich to join him.

In 1988, Pops landed his first coaching gig in the NBA. He spent a short time with the Golden State Warriors under Don Nelson, but returned to the Spurs in 1996. He’s been there ever since.

GM to Coach

Popovich had an unusual route to his first head coaching job in the NBA. The Spurs hired him as their general manager in 1994. During the start of the 1996 season, big man David Robinson went down with an injury and the Spurs imploded. Popovich fired Bob Hill and named himself head coach. At the time the move seemed unorthodox, especially since Popovich had no experience as a head coach in the NBA. Popovich had coached tiny Pomona-Pitzer in the 1980s, but that was in the collegiate ranks a decade earlier.

Popovich struggled in his first season with the Spurs. They finished with an anemic 20-62 record and landed the top pick in the 1997 NBA Draft. The Spurs selected Tim Duncan and the rest of history. The Spurs would go on and dominate the Southwest division for the next two decades.

In his first full season, Pops won 56 games with Duncan as a rookie. They made the playoffs but lost in the Western Conference Semifinals to the Utah Jazz in five games.

5 Rings

The 1998-99 season was shortened due to a strike, but the Spurs managed to win the NBA championship in the truncated season. The Spurs, with their own version of the Twin Towers with Duncan and Robinson, beat the New York Knicks in 5 games.

In 2002-03 season, the Spurs won 60 games and ran the table in the playoffs to win their second NBA title under Pops. In a span of five seasons from 2002 to 2007, the Spurs won three NBA titles.

Pops and Tim Duncan, playing in the twilight of his career, picked up their fifth NBA championship together during the 2013-14 season. The Spurs denied the Miami Heat a chance at a three-peat and beat LeBron James and the Heat in five games. Kawhi Leonard was named NBA Finals MVP.

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