After 5 NBA championships, 3 Coach of the Year awards, 25 seasons as the Spurs’ head coach, and the most wins for any coach with just one team, Gregg Popovich is rumored to want to add another achievement to his overcrowded mantle: the all-time wins record for a head coach.
While he may never say it out loud, according to New York Times reporter Marc Stein via his subscription-based Substack, he has heard “whispers” that Pop really hopes to pass his friend and mentor Don Nelson as the winningest coach in NBA history. Pop, who has 1,310 regular-season wins to his name, is a mere 26 victories away from breaking Nelson’s 1,335 win record. For his part, Nelson is reportedly rooting for Pop to achieve his goal as well. (It’s worth noting that for whatever reason, the official record only includes regular season wins, but if it included the playoffs, Pop would have broken the record a long time ago.)
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, he shouldn’t have too much trouble adding his name to the record books. For the first time in three seasons, the Spurs should have a full 82-game slate to work with, and while the team is entering the season in “rebuild” mode, they have a solid, young foundation whose ceiling is well above 26 wins. And while Vegas has their over/under relatively low at just 28.5 wins for the upcoming season, that would still be enough for Pop to comfortably break Nelson’s record.
If the 72-year-old decides to retire at season’s end, breaking the record would be a memorable sendoff for arguably the greatest coach in basketball history. Regardless of what happens, Pop has made a lasting impact both on and off the court, and the Spurs are very fortunate to have such a great mentor leading the team.