An article entitled “Pop’s Incredible Longevity” revealed that San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has coached against 307 different NBA coaches during his twenty-eight year tenure at the helm.
Those of you under 30 may not even be aware the Spurs ever had another head coach. Names like Doug Moe, Stan Albeck, and Cotton Fitzsimmons could draw wide eyes in many conversations.
Since the (then) controversial firing of Bob Hill in 1996, Pop has consistently coached the Spurs, give or take an ejection or two. Tonight he faces the Clippers and head coach Tyronn Lue. Lue has been with the franchise once treated as the red-headed stepchild of Los Angeles sports since 2020.
Before Lue, Pop faced Bill Fitch, Chris Ford, Jim Todd, Alvin Gentry, Dennis Johnson, Mike Dunleavy, Sr., Kim Hughes, Vinnie Del Negro, and Doc Rivers.
Bill Fitch (1994-1998) had his last NBA head coaching job with the Clippers after spending the 1970s and 1980s coaching the Cavaliers, Celtics, Rockets, and Nets. He replaced Bob Weiss (another familiar Spurs coaching name for us elders).
Fitch was followed by Chris Ford (1999-2000) who had an abysmal 9-41 record in the shortened lockout season. His sophomore effort saw an 11-34 star, and he was fired after a 31 point loss to the Golden State Warriors on February 1 followed the next night by a 46-point drubbing at the hands of the Phoenix Suns.
Ford’s assistant, Jim Todd, finished out the season but fared even worse than Ford with a 4-33 record.
From 2000-2003, Alvin Gentry took the Clippers’ hot seat. Coincidentally, he assisted with the Spurs from 1988-1990 along with Pop and R. C. Buford under Larry Brown. Weeks before taking the job with the Clippers, Gentry had returned to San Antonio as head assistant coach.
Gentry was fired March 2003 after five straight losses and Dennis Johnson finished out the season. In 2005, Johnson become the head coach of the Austin Toros, the then D-League affiliate of the San Antonio Spurs.
Mike Dunleavy, Sr. (2003-2010) also played for the Spurs, but years before Pop even made his first appearance in San Antonio as an assistant. Dunlevy stayed seven seasons, but simply couldn;t get over the hump, having only one winning season resulting in aelimination form the Western Conference Semifinals. He stepped down on February 4, 2010 leaving assistant coach Kim Hughes to complete the season.
In 2010, former Spurs guard Vinnie Del Negro took the clipboard in Tinsel Town. He was playing with the Spurs when Pop took over and was with him until 1998. Under Del Negro, the team improved each year. Despite having the best winning percentage of any Clippers coach, his contract was not renewed and his success was attributed to the Blake Griffin and Chris Paul.
Del Negro’s former Spurs teammate Doc Rivers took the Clippers reins in 2013 in a successful seven year run of winning seasons. But Rivers, unable to get the Clips to the NBA Finals despite multiple talent combinations of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Lou Williams, and Montrezl Harrell, stepped down after being eliminated from the 2020 Western Conference Semifinals.
Which brings us to Ty Lue. The 2016 Cavaliers coach won a title with LeBron James which led the Clippers to believe he could handle big name talent. Lue has not fared as well as his predecessor, but in fairness, he has had to contend with injury-plagued superstars.
That’s ten different coaches over the last twenty-eight seasons.
And in case you hadn’t heard, tonight’s match up has been upgraded to a nationally televised game on NBA TV.
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