Popovich sets NBA coaching regular-season win mark

Head Coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs (center) wins the 1,336th game to become the winningest coach in NBA history on March 11, 2022 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. (AFP)

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich became the all-time winningest coach in NBA regular-season history on Friday, collecting his 1,336th victory when the Spurs edged Utah 104-102.

On the Spurs home court where Popovich has been a beloved figure guiding the club since 1996, Popovich surpassed the regular-season mark he shared with NBA legend Don Nelson, whom Popovich worked under three decades ago.

Typical to his team-oriented style, Popovich declared the achievement a feat shared with all the people who supported him, his decades of players and assistant coaches and the fans who have cheered him for more than a quarter-century.

"All of us share in this record. It's not mine. It's ours," Popovich declared. "That's the joy of it. And after that, that's it. Somebody else will have it down the road."

Popovich, 73, has guided the Spurs to five NBA titles and was coach of the US Olympic squad of NBA stars that won a gold medal last year in Tokyo.

"It's just a testament to a whole lot of people. Something like this does not belong to one individual," Popovich said.

"Basketball is a team sport. You preach to your players that you have to do it together and that has certainly been the case in my life with all the wonderful players and coaches, staff I've been blessed with (and) the support of this wonderful city. The fans support us no matter what."

From Tim Duncan and David Robinson to Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, Popovich turned talented teammates into champions.

"Gregg Popovich's success with the Spurs is unprecedented in our league so it's only fitting that he now holds the record for most career wins," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said.

"His leadership and unwavering commitment to the game are widely admired by generations of players and coaches alike. Congratulations to Coach Pop on this latest achievement in his legendary career."

Argentine star Ginobili tweeted "Congrats to the one and only!" with a photo of Popovich and a goat emoji, symbolizing the "Greatest of all Time."

In a video posted by the Golden State Warriors on social media, Nelson congratulated Popovich for breaking his old mark.

"I just wanted to tell you how proud I am of all your accomplishments and the wonderful things you've done for basketball worldwide," Nelson said.

"I'm most proud of what you're about to accomplish now, which is to put me in second place in all-time wins. I'm so proud of you for doing it. I couldn't wait for this day to happen.

"And I just want you to know as one of my best friends in life, I just wish you the best for your remaining years in the NBA."

'Amazing' coach and man

Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who won three NBA titles as a player with the Chicago Bulls and two more with Popovich's Spurs, paid tribute to his long-time mentor on social media.

"Thank you for everything you have done for me in my life and for all the players that you have coached over the years," Kerr said. "I know I speak for all of them when I say how much you have meant to us.

"Forget the wins, forget the record, all that stuff. What's really meaningful to me and all of your former players is just what you have meant to us on a personal level, how much you have helped us grow as people and the experiences you have provided for us -- the incredible run we were all a part of in San Antonio."

"You're just an amazing coach and an amazing man."