Pro basketball

Merrillville grad Gregg Popovich wins third NBA coach of the year award

2014-04-22T17:00:00Z 2014-04-23T23:18:23Z Merrillville grad Gregg Popovich wins third NBA coach of the year awardAl Hamnik al.hamnik@nwi.com, (219) 933-4154 nwitimes.com
April 22, 2014 5:00 pm  • 

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich looked uneasy, as if he were out of place during Tuesday's heavily-attended news conference at the team's practice facility.

That's Pop, a humble guy who's always preferred the television cameras point elsewhere.

There was no avoiding the media crush on this day, however, as the 1966 Merrillville grad won his third NBA Coach of the Year award, joining Pat Riley and Don Nelson as the only others to do so.

Popovich led an aging Spurs team to a league-best 62-20 record, extending his streak of winning at least 50 games an NBA-record 15 consecutive seasons.

It marked the fifth 60-plus win season in franchise history.

"Day after day, year after year, the energy and leadership Pop provides our organization is truly unique," general manager R.C. Buford said.

Popovich, of course, downplayed his accomplishment.

"There are so many coaches who did a great job this year. A lot of people were really special and to be singled out is very humbling," he said, his entire staff seated behind him.

"It's a volatile job. But I've been fortunate that R.C. and I have been together a long time with an owner (Peter M. Holt) that lets us do our job. I just represent a part of what goes on here."

Phoenix rookie coach Jeff Hornacek and the Bulls' Tom Thibodeau were second and third, respectively, in the voting conducted by a panel of 124 media members.

"When you win an award, it comes down to the players," Popovich said. "Players do the work. Players do the winning."

As in years past, Pop managed the minutes of veterans Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. He developed the league's highest-scoring bench and also had a league-best road record of 30-11 -- all while overcoming several nagging injuries to key players.

Popovich has four NBA titles to his credit and barely missed a fifth last season against Miami.

"The NBA was never a thought for me," Popovich said. "It was something I watched on TV with the ball going through those long nets, remember?"

Today, he is the longest-tenured coach in all four major sports.

"I was fat, dumb and happy to be a Division III coach," he said of earlier days. "I would've done it the rest of my life."

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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