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Looking back at Pop’s opposing head coaches- Heat edition

Consistency breeds success

San Antonio Spurs v Miami Heat Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

As mentioned previously, 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.

Since the firing of Bob Hill in 1996, Pop has consistently coached the Spurs, give or take an ejection or two. Tonight the Spurs face off against the Miami Heat.

The Heat have the second-longest tenured head coach in Erik Spoelstra. Spoelstra has been the Heat’s leader since 2008. Pop and Spo faced off in the NBA Finals in 2013 (boo!) and 2014 (YAY!), not mention twice a year for the last fifteen seasons.

Before Spoelstra, there have only been two other coaches to compete against the Spurs great one.

In 1995, Pat Riley resigned from the New York Knicks and took over as Miami’s president and head coach. He paced the sidelines until promoting his assistant coach Stan Van Gundy. With Van Gundy and Dwyane Wade being drafted, the Heat went from 42-40 in 2003-2004 to 59-23 the following year.

With the Heat building a championship roster, it was speculated that Riley would push out Van Gundy and take over as head coach himself. Stan did resign just 21 games into the season citing family needs, and Riley did, in fact take over. The Heat won their first NBA Championship that season.

Riley took a leave of absence from January 3 to February 19, 2007 leaving Ron Rothstein as interim coach. Rothstein was the Heat’s original coach during their first three seasons and had been an assistant since 2004. On February 11, 2007, Rothstein and the Heat beat Pop and the Spurs 100-85.

Riley resumed his duties and brought the Heat their worst season since the inaugural year. He stepped down as coach (staying on as Miami’s president) and hired Spoelstra, who had been with the organization since 1997. Spo ushered in the “Big 3” era with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, who appeared in four back-to-back Finals. They won two of the four, losing in their last attempt in 2014 when the Spurs dismantled the dynasty sending LeBron back to Cleveland.

Spo and Pop have such a history in this league and so much respect between them, tonight’s game should be quite different from what we’ve seen in the past. The preseason saw nine Heat players missing, so they have yet to take shots at Wemby. Guarantee Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler will do everything to expose the oversized chip on their shoulder that seems to carry this team as a whole.

Go Spurs Go!

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