For the fifth time since 1999, the San Antonio Spurs have won the NBA championship. After an excruciating loss last year against the Miami Heat, the Spurs bounced back to win the rematch. Not only did they cement themselves as the best team of the past decade, but Gregg Popovich cemented himself as one of the greatest coaches of all time.
Popovich has always considered one of the best ever, but winning his fifth title puts him in the conversation with coaches like Pat Riley, Phil Jackson and Red Auerbach. He has reinvented the way people will coach in the NBA for years to come, and will likely have another shot at a championship.
The way Popovich coaches is unlike any other coach in the league. He knew his opponent so well that he knew when certain things were coming. For example, after the Heat would go on a six or eight-point run, Popovich would immediately call a timeout, knowing that a major Heat run was brewing. Almost always, the Spurs would come out of the timeout to run a flawless set, hit a three and steal back the momentum from the Heat.
It should also be noted that Popovich trusts his players more than any other coach in the league. His ability to consistently play 10 players is the reason the Spurs won the series. Players like Patty Mills, Boris Diaw and Tiago Splitter have thrived under Popovich because he has trusted and brought out each of their unique attributes.
He is also always getting better. After seeing that the league is transitioning to more a perimeter-oriented league, he found a way to utilize more lineups during the regular season while also boosting players’ confidence in the process. This proved to be huge during these Finals because the Heat are known as a small-ball team. Popovich beat the Heat at their own game.
It is very unlikely that we will ever see another coach like Popovich. It is rare to see a guy who can literally do it all. Oh, and it also doesn’t hurt that his players seem to love him like a father. The man is truly one of the greats.