Gregg Popovich will be coaching the San Antonio Spurs for the 25th consecutive NBA season. Last season, 'Pop' and the Spurs missed the NBA Playoffs for the first time since 1997. Popovich has been the Spurs' coach since 1996 and has led the franchise to five NBA championships. With that in mind, we will list the best starting five out of the great players he has coached.
5 Greatest players coached by Gregg Popovich per position
Gregg Popovich coached the Spurs for the first time on December 10th, 1996. He was the team's General Manager before he fired head coach Bob Hill due to the team's 3-15 start to the 1996-97 NBA season.
Under Popovich, the team went 17-47 to end that season. David Robinson, the best player on that team, only played six games in that year due to a preseason injury and a foot injury in December.
Ultimately, the Spurs got the first overall pick of the 1997 NBA Draft, and they turned it into Tim Duncan. Duncan became the greatest player in the franchise's history and led the team to five NBA championships.
With the Spurs, Gregg Popovich has won 1,277 games in his coaching career (third all-time). Moreover, he has the third-highest win tally in the NBA Playoffs with 170.
With that in mind, let us take a look at the five greatest players who helped Gregg Popovich reach that status in the league.
Point Guard - Tony Parker
Tony Parker got drafted by the San Antonio Spurs with the 28th overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft.
The Frenchman entered the league as a 19-year-old, and Gregg Popovich put him as a starter in 72 games during the 2001-02 NBA season.
As a young player under a coach with an NBA title already, Parker evolved and became a future Hall of Famer.
Under Gregg Popovich, Parker became a six-time All-Star and a three-time All-NBA player.
Parker averaged 15.8 points and 5.7 assists per game in his 17-year tenure with the San Antonio Spurs and Gregg Popovich.
The Frenchman earned Finals MVP recognition in 2007 when they beat LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.
Shooting Guard - Manu Ginóbili
Manu Ginóbili was one of the San Antonio Spurs' best players during four of the franchise's five championships.
The Spurs and Gregg Popovich drafted the Argentine legend with the 57th overall pick of the 1999 NBA Draft. However, Ginóbili made his NBA debut in 2002 after spending three years playing in Italy.
As an NBA rookie, Ginóbili averaged nine points per game in the NBA Playoffs and made 39 percent of his three-pointers.
The Spurs went on to win the 2003 NBA title, with Gregg Popovich playing Ginóbili for more than 28 minutes per game in The Finals.
In his 16 years in San Antonio under Gregg Popovich, Ginóbili became a Sixth Man of the Year award winner, a two-time All-Star and a two-time All-NBA player.
Ginóbili formed the most successful Big Three in NBA history (in terms of wins), alongside Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.
He averaged 13 points, four assists, and four rebounds per game in his career. Ginóbili spent his entire career with Gregg Popovich as his coach.
Small Forward - Kawhi Leonard
Despite his noisy departure from the San Antonio Spurs, Kawhi Leonard was one of the best talents ever coached by Gregg Popovich.
Leonard arrived in San Antonio after being picked with the 15th pick of the 2011 NBA Draft. He was picked by the Indiana Pacers and got traded to San Antonio for George Hill.
At San Antonio, Leonard evolved into a great two-way player in the league. He had strong outings in the 2013 NBA Finals, though they suffered a heartbreaking loss.
In 2014, Leonard was named Finals MVP and was arguably the best player on the squad, given the stars of the Big-Three were past their prime.
Power Forward - Tim Duncan
Tim Duncan's rookie season was the first full season for Gregg Popovich as the Spurs' coach. Duncan changed everything in San Antonio with his arrival.
He won Rookie of the Year in his first season and guided the team and Gregg Popovich to their first NBA championship in 1999.
After winning consecutive MVPs in 2002 and 2003, Duncan also won his second Finals MVP award in 2003. His performance in the 2003 NBA Finals was unique.
His trophy cabinet grew once more in 2005. He guided San Antonio to a win over the Detroit Pistons in the 2005 NBA Finals. Duncan was named Finals MVP again in one of the most underrated series of the 21st century.
Duncan and Gregg Popovich won two more titles (2007 and 2014) and had three more NBA Finals appearances after 2005.
Duncan is the all-time Spurs' leader in games (1,392), minutes (47,638), points (26,496), Win Shares, Value over Replacement, and many more statistics. It all came under Gregg Popovich's guidance.
The connection between Duncan and Gregg Popovich reached the highest level. The coach even went on to say that he would retire the day Duncan retired.
Duncan is arguably the greatest power forward in NBA history, and his career would have been great regardless of who his coach was. However, Gregg Popovich and TD were a great fit, and the pair led the team to consistent success.
Center - David Robinson
'The Admiral' David Robinson was the San Antonio Spurs' greatest player during the early and mid-1990s.
Robinson won an NBA MVP award in 1995 and even received Defensive Player of the Year recognition in the 1991-92 NBA season. He is one of five NBA players to win those two awards during their careers (Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Kevin Garnett, and Giannis Antetokounmpo).
Robinson was the franchise leader, but he recognized Tim Duncan's potential and allowed him to grow as a future superstar in the NBA.
His team-first mentality was perfect to be coached by Gregg Popovich, and the results showed.
Robinson took a back seat to Duncan offensively, but his defense was elite, and his numbers were there under Gregg Popovich.
He averaged 15 points and nine rebounds per game in his six full seasons with Gregg Popovich as his coach. Robinson was still one of the league's best defenders in his years under 'Pop' (he led the NBA in Defensive Rating in his first three years with Gregg Popovich).
Robinson retired after winning his second NBA championship in 2003.