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Spurs' Popovich humbled to win NBA Coach of the Year

Published May 1, 2012 5:47 pm

NBA • Chicago's Thibodeau and Indiana's Vogel take second and third.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

San Antonio • Spurs coach Gregg Popovich ran through a long, diverse list of names.

He mentioned the Jazz's Tyrone Corbin, Indiana's Frank Vogel and Chicago's Tom Thibodeau. He praised the work of San Antonio's assistant coaches. He thanked Spurs owner Peter Holt and general manager R.C. Buford for their continued dedication.

Then the proud but humbled, four-time NBA champion finally got around to accepting his award.

Popovich was named Tuesday as 2011-12 NBA coach of the year. It's the second time he's received the honor, which he was first awarded during the 2002-03 season.

"I am the beneficiary," Popovich said. "I am the guy that's going to get the award. It's really not mine. It belongs to everybody."

A panel of 119 sports writers and broadcasters gave Popovich 77 first-place votes and 467 total points. Thibodeau finished second and Vogel took third. Corbin placed seventh with one second-place vote and six third-place votes.

"Corbin … took over for [a legend]," Popovich said. "How many of us would like to have to take over for Jerry Sloan?"

Popovich said the Spurs did less with more during an unforgiving lockout-shortened season. Even while resting key players and using a deep rotation, Popovich guided San Antonio to a 50-16 record. The mark tied Chicago for the best overall record in the NBA and earned the Spurs the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

"The fact that [the players] allow me to coach them the way I coach them surprises me almost on a daily basis," Popovich said. "It's a great group of people who I always say have gotten over themselves."

The Spurs hold a 1-0 first-round series lead over the Jazz and have advanced to the playoffs 15 consecutive times under Popovich. San Antonio won 38 of its final 45 games this season and had three double-digit winning streaks.

Popovich is the longest-tenured coach with the same team in the four major professional sports. His 847 victories rank second all time in NBA history for the most wins with one franchise. Sloan's 1,127 with Utah top the list.

"For almost 20 years, Pop has provided the Spurs organization with our vision and clarity of purpose," Buford said.

Where's the fire?

Spurs forward Stephen Jackson has been involved in some crazy situations during his 12-year career. But not even Jackson would punch a glass-encased fire extinguisher, which is exactly what New York forward Amare Stoudemire did Monday after the Knicks fell to Miami.

Stoudemire injured his left hand due to the blow, and he'll miss Game 3 of the first-round series.

Jackson said he understood why a frustrated Stoudemire, already dealing with the recent death of his brother, would act out. But in a playoff fight, big-name players must know their limits.

"Throw a ball. … Don't punch glass," Jackson said.

Briefly

San Antonio reserve center Tiago Splitter was not made available to the media Tuesday. After suffering a left wrist bone bruise during Game 1, Splitter's listed as doubtful for Wednesday's contest.

bsmith@sltrib.com