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

A baker’s dozen have graced the hardwood during the era of Pop

San Antonio Spurs v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/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 (now 308) 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 Brooklyn Nets.

The Brooklyn Nets were originally known as the ABA New Jersey Americans in 1967, but changed their name to the New York Nets in 1968. They remained the New York Nets through their transition into the NBA, when they changed their name (and location) to the New Jersey Nets.

From 1977-2012, they would be the New Jersey Nets. and in 1996, they faced off against Gregg Popovich for the first time.

John Calipari (1996-1999) was the first to oppose Pop. Calipari, like Pop, had served under Larry Brown at the University of Kansas, but they missed one another by a season.

Calipari got the Nets into the playoffs in 1998 where they were swept by the Chicago Bulls. A 3-17 start to the 1999 Lockout year sent him packing.

Assistant coach Don Casey finished out 1999 (when the Spurs won their first NBA title!) with a 13-17 record. he stayed on one more year before retiring from basketball.

Familiar for Byron Scott (2000-2004) started his head coaching career with the Nets, taking them through back-to-back Finals losses (2003 to the Spurs!). Scott would coach against Pop in New Orleans, Cleveland, and Los Angeles through 2016. Scott was fired midseason due to a “disappointing” 22-20 record, which had the Nets leading their division going into to the All-Star Break.

Scott was replaced by assistant Lawrence Frank (2004-2009) who peaked in 2006 and saw a steady decline that led to his firing on November 29, 2009 after an 0-16 start to the season.

Assistant coach Tom Barrise filled in for two games before Kiki VanDeWeghe, special assistant to team president and general manager, agreed to assume duties as interim head coach of the Nets while continuing to be general manager of the team. He finished out the season before it was announced he would not be returning.

Spurs legend Avery Johnson (2010-2012) took over. For two seasons, he struggled though two losing seasons. His third season saw a move to Brooklyn, ending with his being fired in December.

Former Spurs assistant P. J. Carlesimo stood in as interim for the remainder of the season, pulling a 35-19 record, enough for a playoff berth. Carlesimo had faced his predecessor during stints in Portland, Golden State, and Seattle.

Nets legend Jason Kidd had a very hyped hiring returning to the Nets as head coach after a celebrated playing career. For non-Nets fans (like me), his rookie coaching season was underscored by “Watergate,” which should have led to NBA coaching staffs having to use sippy cups.

Lionel Hollins, who had faced Pop during his time in Memphis, took the helm for one season. He started the 2015-2016 season, but was fired after a 10-27 start. Assistant Coach Tony Brown finished off the season.

Kenny Atkinson (2016-2020) had two rough seasons before landing a trip into the postseason during his third seasons. He stepped down during the 2019-2020 season and Spurs former player and assistant Jacque Vaugh stepped in for the last ten games.

Steve Nash (2020-2022) led a star-studded Nets squad through two full seasons before stepping down amid controversies with the players. Again, assistant Jacque Vaughn stepped in.

Vaugh has stayed on this season and brings a rebuilding Nets currently the 11th seed in the eastern Conference. This is one of those games where the Spurs have a fighting chance from the onset.

Go Spurs Go!


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