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

It seems the key to the Cavs success lies not in the coach, but in whether LeBorn chooses to be there

Cleveland Cavaliers v San Antonio Spurs Photo by D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via 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 play the Cleveland Cavaliers.

When Pop took over the Spurs Mike Fratello (1993-1999) was the head coach. Fratello had previously been with the Atlanta Hawks and faced Pop again with the Memphis Grizzlies from 2004-2007.

After being an assistant in Indiana, Dallas, and Minnesota, Randy Wittman took his first head coaching job with Cleveland. From 2000-2002, he struggled through two lackluster seasons before returning to Minnesota to resune his assistant coaching duties.

One time San Antonio Spurs coach John Lucas tried his hand with the Cavs (2001-2003), but also failed to turn therm around. His 8-34 start to the 2002-2003 season ended in January, leaving Keith Smart to finish the season. Smart saw Pop again with Golden State and Sacramento.

Like Lucas, Paul Silas completed one season and did not see the end of his second. Silas was hired to mentor rookie LeBron James, but was marred by controversy. His 2004-2005 campaign was completed by Brendan Malone, father of Mike Malone.

Pop’s former assistant Mike Brown then took over and immediately found success. His five seasons had winning records, playoff berths, and one unsuccessful trip to the Finals, where the Cavaliers were swept by Pop and the San Antonio Spurs.

2010 brought change to the Cavs as LeBron made “The Decision,” Mike Brown left, Byron Scott took over, and the Cavs had four losing seasons with no trips into the postseason.

Mike Brown returned for the 2013-2014 season.

But never fear, LeBron returned in 2014 along with David Blatt. Blatt, James and company made it to the Finals, but lost to the Golden State Warriors. Blatt started the next seaosn, but was replaced by Tyronne Lue. Lue and the Cavs then won the 2016 Championship, being the only team in Finals history to come back from a 3-1 deficit.

In 2018, LeBron left again, as did Lue after starting 0-6 on the year. He was replaced by Larry Drew, who’d previously faced off with Pop during his time in Atlanta and Milwaukee.

John Beilein kicked off the 2019 season with a 14-40 start. He was replaced by J. B. Bickerstaff, who is now in his fourth full season as the Cavaliers head coach.

That’s 13 coaches during Pop’s tenure.

Go Spurs Go!


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