Spurs' Gregg Popovich to Become 5th Coach with 6 NBA Finals Appearances

Bleacher Report MilestonesB/R StaffJune 3, 2014

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich shouts from the sideline during the first half against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals NBA basketball playoff series, in Oklahoma City, Saturday, May 31, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

According to NBA.com/Stats, when the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat tip off in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will become just the fifth coach in league history to appear in six separate Finals.

The other four names should all be familiar to basketball diehards, with the list rounded out by Phil Jackson (13 appearances), Red Auerbach (11), Pat Riley (nine) and John Kundla (six).

Kundla, who won four titles with the Minneapolis Lakers, is the least recognizable of the bunch, yet still a Hall of Famer. Jackson, Auerbach and Riley are also members of the Hall, where Popovich's plaque will undoubtedly one day reside.

Popovich's Spurs took home the Larry O'Brien Trophy in each of his first four Finals appearances, beating the New York Knicks in 1999, the New Jersey Nets in 2003, the Detroit Pistons in 2005 and the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2007.

Popovich's only loss came last season, when the Miami Heat defeated the Spurs in seven games in one of the more exciting Finals in league history.

As spectacular as his career has been, Popovich had never made the Finals in back-to-back seasons prior to this year.

His Spurs have qualified for the playoffs in a remarkable 17 consecutive seasons, but a perennially stacked Western Conference has meant that things have always been interesting once they get there.

What's more, Popovich and Co. had to contend with some of Jackson's powerhouse Lakers teams, as the Purple and Gold won titles in three consecutive years from 2000 to 2002, then back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010.

With the Lakers staring at a rebuilding process and the Oklahoma City Thunder not quite coming along as expected, Popovich likely isn't done adding to his tally of Finals appearances.

Of course, there are still plenty of threatening teams in the Western Conference, highlighted by the Los Angeles Clippers, the Houston Rockets and the up-and-coming Portland Trail Blazers.

As we saw in a seven-game, first-round matchup between the first-seeded Spurs and eighth-seeded Dallas Mavericks, nothing comes easy out West.