SAN ANTONIO — Self-deprecating as usual, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich walked away before the obvious question could leave anyone’s lips just minutes after he moved past Pat Riley for fourth on the NBA’s all-time wins list with San Antonio’s 111-86 triumph Tuesday night over the Phoenix Suns.
Informed of his latest milestone, Popovich turned around and reached for the door.
“You guys have a good evening,” he said.
On a night when DeMar DeRozan produced eight first-half assists to tie a career high for his most in any half and Bryn Forbes led the Spurs with a game-high 24 points to go with his first career double-double (11 rebounds) on any level, San Antonio secured its first three-game winning streak since a four-game tear from Oct. 27 to Nov. 3, with three more home outings remaining on the current six-game homestand.
The Spurs finished the night back at .500 (14-14), sitting at 10th in the Western Conference standings.
“I’m just blessed to be able to learn from one of the greatest ever, if not the greatest ever,” Forbes said when asked about Popovich reaching 1,211 wins. “There’s not a lot of people that can say they’ve done that. Just to be a part of it is huge.”
In his 23rd season with San Antonio, Popovich is the longest-tenured head coach with the same team in all four major professional sports, and he also holds the second-best winning percentage (.686) of all time in the four major sports.
Popovich moved past George Karl (1,175) on the all-time wins list last season, when the Spurs earned a 100-91 decision over the New York Knicks on Jan. 2.
Popovich also reached the 1,200-victory mark faster than any coach in NBA history (1,743 games).
With 515 victories away from home, Popovich needs just six more to move past Riley for first place in all-time road wins. Along the way, he would pass Don Nelson (517) for second on that list.
Popovich also owns the record for the most victories with a single franchise in NBA history.
“A great guy who cares about his players, cares about the development of them and wants to bring the best out of his team,” Spurs guard Patty Mills said. “It’s obviously an honor to be in this locker room and to be coached by him, and I think everyone feels that way, which is why we are trying to do the best we can to get done what he’s asking from us. It’s trust in each other, it’s the trust him, it’s the trust in the system, and we are slowly getting there.
“But I think I speak for everyone in saying that everyone feels honored to be in this position, to be in this locker room and to be coached by him. It’s an awesome achievement to get to [fourth] all time. You almost pinch yourself at times when you step back and realize where you are and who is coaching you.”