NBA: Phil Coles hails San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich

Since arriving in 1996, Gregg Popovich has delivered five NBA titles to the San Antonio Spurs and Phil Coles lauded the 70-year-old.

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.   -  Getty Images

When San Antonio Spurs is mentioned, it is hard not to think about Gregg Popovich. Such has been his impact on the NBA franchise.

With five championships since arriving at the Spurs in 1996, Popovich is one of the most successful head coaches in the league's history — a haul only bettered by Red Auerbach (9) and Phil Jackson (11).

While the Spurs last won the NBA Finals in 2014, Popovich has brought annual consistency to San Antonio with a record 22 consecutive playoff appearances.

Phil Coles knows Popovich better than most. The Australian was handpicked to join the 70-year-old's staff as high-performance manager following San Antonio's championship in 2014.

Asked how big of a role Popovich has played in San Antonio's success, Coles told Omnisport: "Maybe the biggest, along with the general manager [R.C. Buford]. The two of those guys have been the constants in the team's period success. Twenty-two successive years of playoffs — it's phenomenal. Those two have been that stability throughout the period. They started that period with David Robinson and bringing in Tim Duncan to have the Twin Towers that got them their initial success.

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"They transitioned that into the Big Three with Duncan, Manu [Ginobili] and Tony [Parker] and they've now transitioned beyond the Big Three with LaMarcus [Aldridge] and so on this year. They've continued to achieve success. To be able to transfer that through three different eras of great players and never go through any real rebuilding period, never miss the playoffs, you have to give the credit to Pop and RC. They've provided stability and set the culture at the club.

"Pop obviously more directly with the players and media but RC equally behind the scenes in terms of recruitment, the process-driven nature he has and open-mindedness. Those two together are the Spurs. You can't take anything away from the key talent they've had along the way too. They've been attracted to the culture set by those two."


As well as being one of the best coaches to ever work in the NBA, Popovich is also one of the most entertaining. His personality separates him from the rest. His funny and often direct exchanges with the media have left a lasting impression. Popovich — who replaced Bob Hill in 1996 — has never had an issue in speaking his mind on an array of topics.

Coles, who left the Spurs in 2018 for Australia's national football team, added: "He is exactly like he presents. He's very genuine and brutally honest at times. Very passionate and emotional. He puts character of the people he is working with and managing at the forefront.

Popovich's personality separates him from the rest. Photo: AP


"While he is one of the most driven people I've ever met in terms of trying to ensure success, he doesn't put that above the needs of any individual and he constantly reminds people of that and that there's more important things in life.

"While everyone in that organisation works at a 100 per cent capacity, no one does it putting success above individual values. He had a great knack of doing that with players. Improving the character of people and ensuring people are happy and healthy and enjoying the life they have."


During his four years in San Antonio, Coles was fortunate to work with the "Big Three" — Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.

Four-time NBA champion, 2007 Finals MVP and six-time All-Star Parker ended his 18-year career — 17 of those with the Spurs before joining the Charlotte Hornets last season — earlier this month. "TP was incredibly dedicated," Coles, who also worked as Liverpool's head of physical therapy, said. "Obviously had a unique skill set that he was luckily enough to be born with to a certain extend but he made the most of it through his dedication.

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"The best example of Parker is late in his career he had a significant injury that only one player had previously come back to play in the NBA. At his age and given a lot of his game involved speed, agility and power which were a big part of his elite performance, there's very few players who would've had the determination and work ethic to go through a 6-9-month rehab and come back.

"The amazing thing about TP was his dedication through that period was incredible, but he was able to come back at the age of 35 and his physical metrics were the same or better than prior to the injury. You can't give him a better testament than that. Despite being a super star of the game, he was so open to work with. He literally did everything required to the letter and it was fantastic."

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