Gregg Popovich: Where Does He Sit Among the All-Time Great NBA Coaches?

Garrett JochnauCorrespondent IIJune 7, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - JUNE 02:  Head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs reacts in the first half while taking on the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Four of the Western Conference Finals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on June 2, 2012 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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As the final seconds of Game 6 ticked away, an era passed in the NBA. The loss may appear to have only marked the end of the Spurs' season, but in reality, it meant a lot more.

As the Thunder advanced on as the West's representative in the Finals, one could not help but see what a bright future this team has. The Spurs passed on the torch following that game, marking the end of their dynasty and the start of the Thunder's.

For years the Spurs finished as one of the league's top teams, due in large part to Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

However, you have to give credit where credit is due, and no person had a bigger impact on the Spurs' success than their coach, Gregg Popovich.

As the mastermind behind their attack, Pop helped to develop a team full of late round picks and role players, into a team full of stars and potential Hall of Famers. He continuously brought out the best in players, and found ways to win even when the odds were not in their favor.

His legacy is set in stone as not only one of the best coaches of his era, but one of the best of all time.

When naming the best coaches, certain ones seem to be constantly discussed. Phil Jackson led two dynasties to multiple championships—the Bulls and the Lakers.

Pat Riley coached the Showtime Lakers, a team that dominated the league every year. He coached his team to five championships, with his efforts being rewarded three times with the Coach of the Year award.

CHICAGO - DECEMBER 27:  Head coach Pat Riley of the Miami Heat adjusts his coat during a game against the Chicago Bulls on December 27, 2006 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agreees that, by download
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Red Auerbach was the first great coach of the NBA, as he won nine championships with his ever-talented Boston Celtics. He demonstrated such excellence at the position that the NBA Coach of the Year award is known as the Red Auerbach trophy.

But where does Gregg Popovich fall in this list?

With his pair of Coach of the Year awards as well as his four rings, he certainly has the achievements to be placed in the elite category.

However, what really makes him such a talented coach were the things that don't appear in the record books.

The Spurs entered the 2012 NBA season with the words "too old" etched into their foreheads. Many were quick to call them out on their lack of athleticism and youth, and few predicted that they would have such a successful season.

However, due to Pop's brilliant coaching tactics, the Spurs put together one of the most impressive performances that the league has seen in recent years.

They finished with the best record in the West, and made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals, despite standing on frail legs.

The team's roster is made up entirely of non-lottery picks, with the exception of Tim Duncan. The rest of the stars—Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili—were taken in the later rounds and eventually matured into the talented players that they are now.

Phil Jackson, on the other hand, achieved his feats with a roster of players made up of lottery picks. In Chicago, Jordan and Pippen were among the first selected in the draft, and while they achieved greatness, they were expected to do so, considering their status as early selections.

DALLAS, TX - MAY 08:  Head coach Phil Jackson of the Los Angeles Lakers during a press conference after a loss against the Dallas Mavericks in Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 8, 2011 at American Airlines
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In Los Angeles, Jackson was attracted to a team full of stars, such as Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal. He influenced their games, without a question, but to what extent is the true question.

In San Antonio, Pop took on a team whose backbone was centered around Tim Duncan and David Robinson—who was well out of his prime.

While he and Duncan remained together throughout their careers, no other player came to the Spurs through the lottery, yet they still managed to produce stars. Parker was a late first round pick, while Ginobili was taken as one of the final selections in the draft.

Despite this, they went on to have historic NBA careers, due to the brilliance of Gregg Popovich who developed them until they were stars.

While other coaches took lemons and made lemonade, Pop had none to begin with, yet still produced the same ending product.

His ability to create something from nothing is what stands out about his career, and what places him towards the top of the elite echelon of NBA coaches in history.