Gregg Popovich has made his name with Spurs only

Terry Foster
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich is considered one of the best coaches of all time.

You don't simply compare him to Phil Jackson and Pat Riley and the other nine coaches who have 1,000 or more NBA victories. Popovich is compared to New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick and NHL great Scotty Bowman, who won Stanley Cups in Montreal and Detroit. That's how impressive is Popovich, who has five NBA titles in 16 seasons and has pieced together 18 consecutive winning seasons while winning 11 division titles and five Western Conference championships.

And he's done it all in San Antonio, which is hardly a free-agent destination.

Like the other great NBA coaches he did it with a superstar. Phil Jackson had Michael Jordan in Chicago and Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles with the Lakers. Pat Riley rode the coattails of Magic Johnson with the Lakers. Popovich has had Tim Duncan, perhaps the greatest power forward in NBA history. But the marriage made in heaven nearly did not happen.

Popovich admitted, with a straight face, by the way, that he nearly drafted Scot Pollard out of Kansas rather than Duncan during the 1997 NBA draft.

"It's a true story," Popovich told reporters before a recent game in Indianapolis. "I loved the way Scot played. Timmy was really smooth and all that. Is that really going to translate? He was long and lanky and thin. Scot was out there kicking you know what and taking names."

The Spurs used the first pick on Duncan and he was named rookie of the year and is a certain Hall of Fame player. Pollard was selected 19th by the Pistons, averaged 2.2 points and was traded to Atlanta. He was known more for wearing black fingernail polish and ponytails than making big plays on the floor.

5 franchises trailing coach

Popovich has more career wins than five NBA franchises do total. The franchises are the Charlotte Hornets/Bobcats, Minnesota Timberwolves, Toronto Raptors, Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans/Hornets.

No playoff talk yet

The Pistons will be off for a week following the Spurs game. They began Wednesday night one game out of the final playoff spot following Tuesday night's victory over the Charlotte Hornets.

Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy is happier with his team's position although they now are playing without starting point guard Brandon Jennings.

He said he would talk playoffs after the upcoming All-Star break. But now is not the time.

"We just stuck with it," Van Gundy said about the Pistons' slow start. "We stayed together as a team.

"You are going to go through ups and downs in this league. We knew that, but we stayed together at the same time. At the same time, we don't want to look at the playoffs right now, we just want to stay focused on what's in front of us and when that times coming, we'll be ready."

terry.foster@detroitnews.com

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