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Pop’s coaching tree continues with Mario Elie

Lucky for Pop, hiring Elie didn’t end his career

San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich, 1999 NBA Finals SetNumber: X58186 TK1 R5 F32

First off, apologies to everyone saw the piece on P. J. Carlesimo and thought is was a posthumous tribute. I had started tracing Pop’s coaching tree earlier in the summer, then got distracted with the draft, free agency, and Summer League. If picking up willy-nilly like that through you off, I am truly sorry. P. J. Carlesimo is alive and well despite the fact he talks like a three-pack-a-day smoker.

You know who else is a live and well?

Mario Elie.

Mario Elie played two seasons with the San Antonio Spurs. Two years may not seem like much, but when one of those years is 1999, it’s a much bigger deal. And since he was starting alongside David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Avery Johnson, and Sean Elliott, Elie also is the unique trivia answer to the question, “who is the only starter on the 1999 Championship Spurs roster to not have his jersey retired?”

Should have stayed longer, Mario.

Maybe becoming a jersey retiree was not on Elie’s wish list as he had already won two titles in Houston with the Rockets. I guess coattail riding the best big men in the biz was just his thing.

He did not stay away from San Antonio for long. Shortly after retiring as a player, his next job was to join Gregg Popovich as an assistant coach. With mainstay Mike Budenholzer, Joe Prunty, and the aforementioned (still with us) P. J. Carlesimo, Elie kicked off his assistant coaching career. And what a career he had.

His time in San Antonio was, once again, short-live. His lone season at Pop’s side was unfortunately wedged between two championship seasons. I am not blaming Elie for Derrick Fisher’s “0.4.” but I’m not absolving him either.

Either way, he moved on to Golden State for two seasons under Mike Montgomery. Although Montgomery had a forty-five year coaching career, those two years in Golden State were his only time with the NBA.

Elie then headed to Dallas to coach under fellow Spurs champion Avery Johnson. Johnson was fired after that season.

Sacramento Kings brought Elie into the fold for a pair of seasons under Paul Westphal. Westphal survived one more season after Elie’s departure and never served as a head coach again.

Elie finally ended up once again with Avery Johnson with the a two-year stint with the Nets coaching staff which included P. J. Carlesimo (who, it should be clear is very much alive).

In an unfortunate trend, Avery Johnson was fired again, this time leaving the alive and kicking Carlesimo in the driver’s seat. I’m sure Avery didn’t make any connections between the hiring of his compadre and his ultimate demise as a head coach. But then again...

Hire you and I get fired once, shame on me. Hire you and I get fired again...

There is a two year gap before Elie finished his NBA coaching career in Orlando under Scott Skiles. Skiles only had that once abyssmal season in Orlando and hasn’t coached since.

There’s a trend in Elie’s assistant coaching tree. No one survives.

No one...except Pop.

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