As the summer looms, we continue our journey through Gregg Popovich’s coaching tree. The first year that Gregg Popovich coached the San Antonio Spurs (after firing Bob Hill) he had Hank Egan by his side. This was not the first time the two men worked together on the hardwood.
Although Egan played basketball for the Navy in the late 1950s, he got his start in coaching as an assistant coach at the U. S. Air Force Academy from 1966-1971. Coincidentally, Pop played for the Air Force from 1966-1970.
In 1971, Hank was promoted to head coach and stayed in that role until 1984. Pop served as his assistant from 1973-1979.
From 1984-1994, Egan coached the San Diego Toreros leading them to a 1987 West Coast Conference Championship. Additionally, Hank earned back-to-back WCC Coach of the Year honors in 1986 and 1987.
In 1994 when Gregg Popovich returned to San Antonio from Oakland to serve as general manager and vice president of basketball operations, Hank Egan was brought in as an assistant coach. Egan stayed in that role as Pop transitioned to head coach and worked alongside his former player and assistant until 2002. The two shared in the Spurs first ever 1999 NBA Championship.
Egan then spent a season in Golden State where he planned to retire. But another former player of Egan’s, Mike Brown, lured him to Cleveland where he assisted five more seasons before retiring. Brown and Egan had also worked together in San Antonio under Pop. The duo of Brown and Egan faced off against their former head coach in the 2007 NBA Finals as a young, emerging superstar LeBron James made his first Finals appearance.
Egan once said of the two men, “Popovich was very hard to coach. Brown was very easy to coach.”
They may have had different styles and personalities, but it is apparent that Pop’s bonds play a major role in his team-building throughout his coaching career.
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