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 Portland Trail Blazers for back-to-back nights in Rip City.
Of the teams we have discussed, it should be noted that the Trail Blazers have had longer tenured coaches. Although there have been eight over Pop’s time in San Antonio, two served as interim. Six make up the majority of the last twenty-seven seasons.
In fact, since Portland won their lone title in 1977, every head coach, excluding interims, has started at least three seasons. In some cases, significantly more.
When Pop took over in San Antonio, P. J. Carlesimo was in his second season as head coach. After a third, P. J. would move on to Golden State for a three-year stint. Carlesimo would serve as an assistant to Pop from 2002-2007.
Former Spurs guard Mike Dunleavy, Sr. (1997-2000) had already served as a head coach for the Lakers and Bucks when he made his way to Portland. He had four winning seasons and nabbed himself the 1999 NBA Coach of the Year honors, but the Trail Blazers inability to get themselves into the Finals led to Dunleavy’s firing at the end of the 1999-2000 season.
Another former Spurs guard, Maurice Cheeks (2001-2004), followed Mike Dunleavy, Sr. He coached four seasons, but was unable to lead the Trail Blazers into the postseason in his final full season, after a 22-33 start to the 2004-2005 season, he was fired and replaced just after the All-Star Break by former Spurs scout Kevin Pritchard who lost his lone game against the Spurs late in the season.
Nate McMillan (2005-2011), who had already coached against Pop during his time with the Seattle SuperSonics, took the helm for over six season. He improved the Trail Balzers record each of the first four years, but then began a steady decline which led to his firing during the shortened 2011-2012 season.
Assistant coach Kaleb Canales finished off the 2012 campaign and lost his only game against Pop just as the season was winding down.
Terry Stotts (2012-2021) ushered in the era of Damian Lillard. The Trail Blazers had eight straight playoff berths after Dame’s rookie season, but could never get themselves past the hump and into the Finals. Stotts and the Trail Blazers amicably parted ways in June of 2021.
Ever since Stotts exit, Chauncey Billups has been serving as the head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers. The Blazers, like the Spurs are now in the midst of rebuilding with rookie stars as the center piece of the new squads.
Although the Spurs have been struggling to get wins this season, the Trail Blazers are their best bet to pull a W this week. Two struggling teams and a back-to-back gives Pop a chance to reassess and plan a new attack for Friday night.
Go Spurs Go!
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