Ranking top 10 NBA coaches: Where Houston Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni lands
1. Gregg Popovich- San Antonio Spurs
Gregg Popovich is one of the greatest coaches in NBA history, as he ranks first all-time with the most wins in NBA history, including the playoffs. He first took over as the interim coach during the 1996-1997 season when he replaced former coach Bob Hill after 18 games. That was the only year a Popovich-led Spurs team didn’t make the playoffs and he wasn’t the coach for the full 82 games. In the 1997-1998 season, which was Pop’s first full year as the head coach, the Spurs went 56-26, and the Spurs have been a playoff team ever since. The fact that the Spurs have been in the postseason for 22 consecutive seasons is a testament to Pop’s coaching ability, but it is also an NBA record for most consecutive winning seasons.
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We also have to remember the fact that the Spurs play in San Antonio, which is a small market. This is why the Spurs very rarely land the top free agents, with the lone exception being the 2015 offseason when they landed LaMarcus Aldridge. The Spurs have had to utilize their draft picks, and are viewed as one of the best in the league as it pertains to drafting wisely. With the exception of the 1997 NBA Draft, in which they selected Tim Duncan with the first overall pick, the Spurs haven’t had a lottery draft pick. Since they’ve been in the playoffs every year, they’ve been drafting late in the first round more often than not, which is much different than drafting late in the first round of the NFL Draft. In the NBA Draft, outside of the lottery picks, it’s been said that the rest of the draft doesn’t really matter.
However, the Spurs drafted future Hall of Fame guard Tony Parker with the 28th pick in the 2001 NBA Draft. Even more impressive is the fact that the Spurs drafted future Hall of Famer Manu Ginobili with the 57th pick overall in the 1999 NBA Draft. The Spurs also drafted Kawhi Leonard with the 15th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Part of the credit for drafting so well goes to Greg Popovich, as he’s held the title of General Manager and President of Basketball Operations over the course of his tenure in San Antonio. But on the player development angle, the full credit goes to Pop for turning late draft picks into future Hall of Famers.
Dating back to the 1998-1999 season, Popovich has led the Spurs to five NBA championships. In addition, the Spurs trio of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker was broken up in recent, yet the Spurs never missed the postseason despite the new cast of characters, which is generally not how team “blow ups” go.
The latest mark of Popovich’s coaching genius was how he was able to guide the Spurs to the postseason last year. This is because the Spurs lost starting point guard Dejounte Murray to a torn ACL during a preseason game against the Rockets and were playing in their first year following the Kawhi Leonard trade. Popovich was able to get significant contributions from then second year guard Derrick White, as White averaged 13.8 points per 36 minutes and tripled his minutes from the previous year from 8.2 minutes to 25.8 minutes per night.
Pop was also able to turn DeMar DeRozan into a facilitator, as he averaged 6.2 assists per game, which actually was a career high for DeRozan. Not only that, but DeRozan led the Spurs in assists per game, and ranked 12th in the league in total assists. In addition, DeRozan had a field goal percentage of 48.1 percent, which was his highest since his rookie season, all due to Popovich’s ability to use him wisely.