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The stability of Pop

The Spurs head coach’s career has outlasted many, many competitors

Houston Rockets v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images

NBA seasons come and go. Players come and go. But one thing has been consistent in San Antonio for the last twenty-seven seasons, Gregg Popovich has been coaching the San Antonio Spurs.

On October 25th, Pop kicks off his 28th season. This is quite a feat in the modern NBA.

I realize this is not new information to the Spurs devout, but a graphic in last Monday’s preseason game caught my eye. It’s not how long Pop has been in San Antonio, it’s how many opponents he’s coached against from the same team during his tenure.

Since the 1996-97 season, the Houston Rockets have had seven coaches: Rudy Tomjanovich, Jeff Van Gundy, Rick Adelman, Kevin McHale, J. B. Bickerstaff, Mike D’Antoni, and Stephen Silas.

And this season the Rockets add Pop’s eighth Houston opponent — Ime Udoka.

Udoka, a former Spurs assistant coach (2012-2019), also played under Pop during two stints with the Spurs between 2007-2011.

This isn’t the first time Udoka and Pop have faced off in head-to-head competition. Ime was the head coach of the Boston Celtics during the 2021-2022 season, nabbing the Eastern Conference Championship before falling to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.

Udoka’s impressive head coaching debut season record of 51-31 did include two losses to his mentor. The Spurs won both games against the Celtics on November 26th and January 5th. Other than Monday’s preseason game, Udoka has yet to beat Pop.

Now that Udoka is in Houston, the division rivals will have four match-ups: October 27th, December 11th, March 5th, and March 12th.

The Spurs and Rockets split a pair of pre-season games, but for now, wins and losses only matter in an abstract sense. The Spurs long-time head coach will be tested by his former assistant immediately and throughout the season at reasonably spaced intervals.

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