Facing a multitude of challenges in pursuit of the Tokyo Olympic gold, USA head coach Gregg Popovich realized his golden dream on Aug. 7, 2021, when the U.S. Olympic Men's Basketball Team defeated France 87-82 to capture the Olympic title.
"You know, every championship is special and the group you're with a special, but I can be honest and say this is the most responsibility I've ever felt. Because you're playing for so many people that are watching for a country and other countries involved. The responsibility was awesome. And I felt that every day for several years now."
On Dec. 15, Popovich was named as a co-recipient of the 2021 USA Basketball National Coach of the Year Award, which he shared with Dawn Staley, who led the U.S. Olympic Women's Basketball Team to gold at the Tokyo Olympics.
The future of the USA Basketball Men’s National Team was disclosed on Oct. 23, 2015, when USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo officially announced that five-time NBA championship and longtime San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich had been selected head coach of the USA Basketball Men’s National Team for the 2017-20 quadrennium.
“I’m extremely humbled and honored to have the opportunity to represent our country as the coach of the USA National Team,” Popovich, a 1970 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, said at the announcement press conference.
“What the program has accomplished over the last decade under the leadership of Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski is truly impressive. I will do my utmost to maintain the high standards of success, class and character established by Jerry, Coach K and the many players who have sacrificed their time on behalf of USA Basketball.”
“I’m absolutely delighted to announce Gregg Popovich as head coach of the USA Basketball Men’s National Team," said Colangelo at the press confrence announcing the USA's new coach. "There is no doubt in my mind that we have the great fortune of bringing on board one of the NBA’s best and most successful coaches ever to lead the USA National Team for the 2017-20 quadrennium."
Internationally, Popovich has served as head or assistant coach for six USA Basketball national teams and has compiled an overall record of 45-13, while winning two gold medals and one bronze medal. He directed the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team to gold in Tokyo for the USA's fourth consecutive Olympic title. He led an injury riddled USA National Team in 2019 USA to a 6-2 record and seventh place at the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China. He served as an assistant to Larry Brown for the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team that won a bronze medal with a 5-3 record, was an assistant with the 2003 USA FIBA Americas Championship Team (FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying tournament) that captured a 10-0 record, a gold medal and a qualifying berth for the 2004 Olympics, and he was an assistant coach for the 2002 USA World Championship Team that finished in sixth place with a 6-3 record.
Popovich completed his 25th season (1996-97 through 2020-21) as head coach of the NBA San Antonio Spurs and currently stands as the longest tenured active coach in both the NBA and in all U.S. major sports leagues.
He ranks first all-time among NBA coaches for the most consecutive winning regular seasons with 22. "Pop" has led San Antonio Spurs teams to five NBA championships (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014) and lists as one of just five coaches in NBA history to win five or more NBA titles.
Completing the 2020-21 season owning a sterling 1,310-653 (.667 winning percentage) all-time regular season record, his current .667 winning percentage ranks fourth in NBA history (among coaches with five or more seasons as a head coach) trailing only Phil Jackson (.704), Billy Cunningham (.698) and USA assistant Steve Kerr (.687). He is one of nine coaches in NBA history to have won 1,000 NBA games, has won more games than any active NBA coach and his 1,310 wins with one team ranks as the most all-time in NBA history.
He also owns a 170-114 record (.599 winning percentage) in NBA playoffs and ranks third all-time for playoff wins behind Jackson (229) and Pat Riley (171), and owns the eighth-best (for head coaches with five or more seasons) playoff career winning percentage in NBA history.
Popovich has been named NBA Coach of the Year three times, in 2003, 2012 and 2014. He’s also been named Western Conference All-Star coach four times and NBA Coach of the Month a remarkable 17 times - the most in league history.
Born in East Chicago, Indiana, Popovich graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 1970, and while there, played basketball for four seasons (1966-67 - 1969-70). As a senior he served as the team captain and finished as the leading scorer averaging 14.3 points a game.
Popovich served five years of required active duty in the United States Air Force, during which time he toured Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union with the U.S. Armed Forces Basketball Team. In 1972, he was selected captain of the Armed Forces Team, which won the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) championship. He was among 66 players invited by the U.S. Olympic Basketball Games Committee to try out for the 1972 U.S. Olympic Basketball Team.
Popovich returned in 1973 to the Air Force Academy and was head coach of the USAFA Prep School for three seasons (1973-74 through 1975-76). He spent three seasons (1976-77 through 1978-79) as an assistant at the U.S. Air Force Academy and he obtained a master’s degree in physical education and sports sciences from the University of Denver.
In 1979 he was named the head basketball coach of Pomona and Pitzer Colleges combined men's basketball team. Popovich coached the Pomona-Pitzer men's basketball for eight seasons (1979-80 through 1985-86 and 1987-88,) and in 1985-86 led the team to its first conference championship in 68 years and to a berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Taking off the 1986-87 season at Pomona-Pitzer to become a volunteer assistant for Larry Brown at the University of Kansas, Popovich returned to coach Pomona-Pitzer in 1987-88. While at Pomona, he was an active member of the school’s academic community, working as an associate professor, chairing the college’s Student Life committee, and serving on the Women’s Commission.
Popovich joined Larry Brown as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs in 1988 and in four seasons helped the Spurs claim two Midwest Division titles.
In the summer of 1992 he was named an assistant coach on Don Nelson’s Golden State Warriors staff.
After two seasons with Golden State, Popovich returned to the San Antonio Spurs after being named general manager and Vice President of Basketball Operations on May 31, 1994. After the Spurs started the 1996-97 season 3-15, he took over as head coach. In 1998-99, his second full season as the Spurs head coach, he led San Antonio to an NBA championship.
His off-court contributions include involvement with the San Antonio Food Bank, Roy Maas’ Youth Alternatives, Boys and Girls Club, The Miracle League, and the Spurs Youth Basketball League - a program he helped create in 1991 which was later honored with a Daily Point of Light Award by President George H.W. Bush the following year.
Gregg Popovich USA Basketball Coaching Synopsis
MEDAL / FINISH
|2020 U.S. Olympic Team||Head Coach||5-1||.833||Gold Medal|
|2021 USA National Team||Head Coach||2-2||.500||N/A|
|2019 USA World Cup Team||Head Coach||6-2||.750||Seventh Place|
|2019 USA National Team||Head Coach||3-1||.800||N/A|
|2004 U.S. Olympic Team||Assistant Coach||5-3||.625||Bronze Medal|
|2004 USA National Team||Assistant Coach||5-1||.833||N/A|
|2003 USA FIBA Americas Championship Team
||Assistant Coach||10-0||1.000||Gold Medal|
|2003 USA National Team
|2002 USA World Championship Team
||Assistant Coach||6-3||.666||Sixth Place|
|2002 USA National Team
|USA Basketball Coaching Record||
6 USA Teams
2 Gold Medals/1 Bronze Medal