Where Gregg Popovich stands among the NBA's greatest coaches


Although the Spurs were unable to claim a fifth championship on Thursday night, Gregg Popovich still belongs on the list of all-time greats.

Ruffling the feathers of San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich might only take a sideline interview. That's likely because it takes him away from what he does best.

Since joining the Spurs in 1996, Popovich has led San Antonio to four NBA championships. If there wasn't talk about San Antonio's gruff leader being among the best in the history of the game, there should be. While his Spurs didn't give him his fifth title, they certainly put up a great fight against an incredible Heat team.

Here's how Pop stacks up against the best.

Playoff success

Although San Antonio came up short in the 2013 NBA Finals against the Miami Heat, only a handful of head coaches have more NBA championships. Phil Jackson's 11 titles and Red Auerbach's nine lead the pack.

Popovich would have moved into a three-way tie for the third-most professional basketball titles if the Spurs had grabbed their fifth championship on Thursday night. Current Miami executive Pat Riley and Minneapolis Lakers coach John Kundla each have five. But the dropoff from there puts Popovich in rarefied company -- many coaches have won two, but only the five listed above have done better.

Rudy Tomjanovich (Rockets), Chuck Daly (Pistons), K.C. Jones (Celtics) and Red Holzman (Knicks), among others, have all won two titles.

Popovich again finds himself third in NBA history with 133 postseason wins. He trails Phil Jackson's hard-to-tackle 229 playoff victories thanks to his winning percentage of .688. Pat Riley's time with the Lakers and Heat gave him 171 playoff victories.

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With 905 regular season victories, Popovich is 12th all-time. Don Nelson leads all coaches with 1,335 over the course of his 31-year career and he's followed by Lenny Wilkens (1,332), Jerry Sloan (1,221), Riley (1,210), Jackson (1,155), George Karl (1,131) and Larry Brown (1,098).

For a while, Popovich will be chasing Karl, assuming the former Nuggets coach finds a head coaching gig this summer. He'll also be playing catchup with Rick Adelman, whose 1,002 career regular season victories should grow next season with the Timberwolves.

Longevity is obviously a reason for Popovich to be in the conversation of the best ever.

Of 45 coaches that have spent at least 10 seasons in the league, Popovich, Kundla and former Warriors coach Al Attles are the only three to have spent their entire careers with only one team. Seven more had stints with only two teams.

Winning percentage

Popovich has a regular season winning percentage of .681 over the course of his career with the Spurs, good for third-best all-time -- out of those who coached at least 300 games -- and trailing Jackson's .704 winning percentage and former Philadelphia 76ers coach Billy Cunningham's .698.

K.C. Jones is just behind Popovich. He has a .674 career winning percentage in stints with the Celtics, Washington Bullets and Seattle SuperSonics. In descending order in terms of winning percentage comes Auerbach (.662), Heat coach Erik Spoelstra (.660), Cavaliers coach Mike Brown (.653), former Heat and Magic coach Stan Van Gundy (.641) and Riley (.636).

Ten of Popovich's 17 seasons saw the Spurs win division titles, and for the last 14 years they have won at least 50 games during the regular season. That streak would be two years longer had the 1999 championship season for San Antonio not been shortened due to the lockout; the Spurs still won 37 out of 50 regular season games.

The trophy case

Only a handful of coaches have won Coach of the Year honors multiple times. Nelson and Riley are the only NBA coaches to win the award three times. Hubie Brown, Bill Fitch, Cotton Fitzsimmons and Gene Shue join the Spurs head coach having won it twice.

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