"He's great," Rivers said before Thursday's practice. "I think every coach in the league wants to be like Pop. Players want to be like Mike, we want to be like Pop."
But when times get hard for Popovich, he turns to Rivers.
After the Spurs lost Game 7 in the 2013 NBA Finals, Popovich called Rivers to ask him whether he ever got over his devastating Game 7 loss when he was coaching the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals in 2010.
"Nope," said Rivers, who led the Celtics to a championship in 2008.
One of the coaches is going to need some comforting very soon considering the Clippers and the Spurs are meeting in the first round of the playoffs, with Game 1 set for Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at Staples Center.
The Clippers and the Spurs have split their games this season, the Spurs winning the first two, the Clippers winning the final pair.
All season long, Rivers has called the defending champion Spurs the gold standard of the league.
Popovich apparently feels the same way about Rivers.
"He’s a hell of a leader,” Popovich said when the teams played in November. “I don’t say that just because he’s a friend. He’s got a heck of a presence, he’s highly intelligent, he’s incisive, he’s got a personality, and that pervades whatever situation he might be involved in. Whether he was running a bank or running an NBA team, that’s the truth.”