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. Last night the Spurs played the Philadelphia 76ers.
When Pop took over, Johnny Davis was the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, but only for one year yielding a 22-60 record. He’d face Pop again during stints in Orlando and Memphis.
For the next six seasons (1998-2003), Popovich competed against his mentor Larry Brown who he’d do battle with in Detroit, New York, and Charlotte over twelve seasons.
2003-2004 saw a split between Randy Ayers, who was fired after a 21-31 start, and Chris Ford who completed the season as interim head coach.
Jim O’Brien took over in 2004 after resigning from Boston, but he was fired after one season when the 76ers got knocked out of the playoffs in the first round.
Maurice Cheeks (2005-2008) was fired after a 9-14 start to his fourth season despite improving the team in his third season and helping them earn a playoff berth.
Assistant coach Tony DiLeo completed the 2008-2009 season but removed his name from consideration for the following season. Instead, he opted to join the Sixers’ front office as senior vice president and assistant general manager.
Eddie Jordan (2009-2010) also joined the single-season head coach club, being fired at the end of his 27-55 campaign.
Doug Collins (2010-2013) had previously sparred off against Pop during his time in Chicago, Detroit, and Washington.
For the next seven seasons (2013-2020), Pop’s former (and current) assistant Brett Brown invoked “The Process” which involved a lot of tanking and the acquisition of high draft picks including Joel Embiid (2014), Elfrid Payton (2014), Jahlil Okafor (2015), Ben Simmons (2016), Markelle Fultz (2017), and Mikal Bridges who was traded on draft night for Zaire Smith (2018). The experiment did not work and Brown was fired in 2020 after being swept by the Celtics in the playoffs.
Doc Rivers came in for three years (2020-2023) in hopes of building a contender around Embiid. Trades and free agency signings involving seasoned, aging vets Dwight Howard, Danny Green, George Hill, Andre Drummond, James Harden, DeAndre Jordan, Paul Milsap, Montrezl Harrell, and P. J. Tucker garnered trips to the playoffs with lackluster results.
This season, the 76ers are still using the same formula of surrounding the reigning MVP with older players. Patrick Beverly, Marcus Morris, Kelly Oubre, Jr., Nicolas Batum, and Robert Covington have been added in with Nick Nurse at the helm. Nurse notably won a title with the Toronto Raptors.
Perhaps Philly is hoping lightning will strike twice. With the reigning MVP (who dropped a franchise high 70 pints last night), there is a shot of Philly making a deep playoff run and holding onto that Most Valuable Player trophy for another year.
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