Gregg Popovich surpasses Don Nelson for most wins in NBA coaching history

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich signals to his players during a game against the Lakers.
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich signals to his players during a game against the Lakers on Monday. The Spurs’ win over the Utah Jazz on Friday made the Popovich the NBA’s all-time coaching wins leader.
(Eric Gay / Associated Press)

Gregg Popovich is the winningest coach in NBA regular-season history, getting his 1,336th victory when the San Antonio Spurs rallied to beat the Utah Jazz 104-102 on Friday night.

Popovich broke a tie with Don Nelson, the friend and mentor he served as an assistant under while with Golden State for two seasons beginning in 1992.

The milestone came in Popovich’s 2,030th game and 26th season with the Spurs, the only franchise he has coached.


Unsurprisingly, the evening was met with zero fanfare.

Division III Pomona-Pitzer would be a springboard for Gregg Popovich, but the early years — and one game especially — didn’t augur a legendary future.

Praise or celebration of any achievement is brusquely deflected or simply ignored by Popovich. To hear Popovich explain it, he simply shows up to work and rolls the ball onto the court.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Popovich has won five NBA championships, 13 division titles and was recently named one of the 15 greatest coaches in league history. He has coached NBA 75th Anniversary Team members David Robinson and Tim Duncan, future Hall of Fame members Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker as well as journeymen who found careers in San Antonio such as Danny Green and current NBA coaches Steve Kerr, Monty Williams, Ime Udoka and Doc Rivers.

San Antonio won 50 games for a league-record 18 straight seasons from 2000 to 2017 under Popovich.

The Spurs matched a league record with 22 straight playoff appearances but have missed two straight postseasons since their streak ended in 2017.

While the glory days seem distant, the 73-year-old Popovich continues plugging along.

Popovich joked that coaching Duncan, Parker and Ginobili had grown “boring” because they knew everything. The current roster is the antithesis of that.

This year’s team is the youngest of Popovich’s career. The Spurs have fully embraced a rebuild expedited by Kawhi Leonard’s forced departure from San Antonio along with the retirement of the Big Three.

Dejounte Murray, who has emerged as the team’s newest star, had 27 points and nine rebounds to lead the Spurs past the Jazz. Murray made two free throws with 4.8 seconds left and one of two with a second remaining to seal the victory.

Lakers guard Russell Westbrook is fed up with chants of “Westbrick” but he’s missing the point that praising or criticizing his play is not personal.

Murray’s 17-footer tied the it at 84 with 5:28 remaining to close an 18-3 run by the Spurs. Lonnie Walker IV made two of three free throws to put San Antonio up 96-95 for its first lead since Josh Richardson’s 15-footer put them ahead 5-3 just 1:31 into the game.

Donovan Mitchell had 24 points for Utah, and and Rudy Gobert added 13 points and 16 rebounds.

Former Spurs forward Rudy Gay pulled Utah to 103-102 on a three-pointer with a second left.