Gregg Popovich’s Coaching Tree Standing Tall in the 2022 NBA Playoffs

While the San Antonio Spurs didn’t qualify for the 2022 NBA Playoffs, that doesn’t mean the franchise’s presence isn’t being felt during postseason play. The Gregg Popovich coaching tree is well represented, with branches reaching half of the 16 teams competing in the playoffs. 

Popovich, who has been the head coach of the Spurs since December of 1996, hasn’t yet announced whether he’s returning for another season or stepping away at age 73. His most recent accomplishments were leading the USA to a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics and breaking the record for wins as an NBA head coach. 

After San Antonio’s successful season, I’m hoping he returns for at least one more season. If he does walk away, he leaves behind a coaching tree that will be formidable for decades to come. 

The Eight Branches of the Gregg Popovich Coaching Tree in the 2022 NBA Playoffs

1. Boston Celtics

Ime Udoka is in his first season as the head coach of the Boston Celtics. The Celtics are one of the hottest teams in the NBA and Boston currently has a 3-0 lead over the much-ballyhooed Brooklyn Nets. 

Udoka was an assistant coach under Popovich from 2012 to 2019 before he left the Spurs to become the lead assistant coach for the Philadelphia 76ers. Udoka’s lead assistant in Boston is Will Hardy, who was an assistant coach under Popovich for four seasons and spent more than a decade in the Spurs organization. 

2. Milwaukee Bucks

Mike Budenholzer won a ring last year in his third season as the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks. Budenholzer broke into the league as a video coordinator hired by Popovich in 1994. He was an assistant in San Antonio from 1996 to 2013 and was regarded as Popovich’s right-hand man for much of that time. 

Chad Forcier, who was an assistant in San Antonio from 2007 to 2016, is now an assistant coach under Budenholzer .

3. Phoenix Suns

Monty Williams, who has won the coaches association’s Coach of the Year award two straight seasons as the head coach of the Phoenix Suns, started his coaching career as a coaching staff intern for the 2005 championship Spurs squad. Following the death of his wife in 2016, Williams returned to the Spurs in a front office role.

Previously, Williams played for Popovich from 1996 to 1998. Mark Bryant, another former player under Popovich, is an assistant under Williams in Phoenix.  

4. Utah Jazz

After a college coaching career that was derailed by an NCAA investigation, Quin Snyder was ready to never coach again until the Spurs came calling to offer him the head coaching gig for the Austin Toros. After a very successful stint in the Spurs organization, Snyder worked his way up to become the head coach of the Utah Jazz in 2014. 

One of Quin Snyder’s assistant coaches in Utah is Dell Demps. Demps played for Popovich and then spent another five years in the Spurs organization, where he started as a coach and ended up in the front office. 

5. Memphis Grizzlies

Taylor Jenkins is the 37-year-old head coach of the Memphis Grizzles. Even though he didn’t play college basketball, he got his foot in the door at the NBA level as a front office intern in San Antonio. From there, he became an assistant in Austin and eventually he was named the head coach of the G-League team. After six years as an assistant coach for Budenholzer, Jenkins got a head coaching job of his own.

One of Jenkins’ assistant coaches is Blake Ahearn, who was the Austin Spurs head coach for three seasons. 

6. Brooklyn Nets

While Steve Nash is sorta, kinda the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, Jacque Vaughn is both the lead assistant coach and the highest paid assistant coach in the league. After finishing his playing career with two seasons in San Antonio, Vaughn became an assistant coach from 2010 to 2012. After three seasons as the head coach for the Orlando Magic, Vaughn returned to the Spurs for a season with a role in the front office. 

Sean Marks, the general manager of the Nets, played two seasons under Popovich, spent a year in the front office and then was a Spurs assistant coach for three seasons. Tiago Splitter, who played for Popovich for five seasons, is an assistant coach in Brooklyn. 

7. Golden State Warriors

Popovich traded for Steve Kerr twice during his playing days. Kerr’s final game was with the Spurs when they won the 2003 championship. Mike Brown, whose official title is associate head coach for the Golden State Warriors, was an assistant coach in San Antonio from 2000 to 2003.

8. Atlanta Hawks

Joe Prunty, a top assistant coach for the Atlanta Hawks, broke into the NBA as a video coordinator for the Spurs in 1996. He eventually became a Spurs assistant coach from 2000 to 2005. 

Nick Van Exel, another Hawks assistant, played for Popovich. Landry Fields, who worked in the Spurs front office for four years after his playing days ended, is the assistant general manager for the Hawks.

The Popovich/Spurs connections to the active playoff teams don’t end there. Trajan Langdon, the general manager of the New Orleans Pelicans, began his front office career with a three-year stint in San Antonio. Earl Watson, an assistant coach for the Toronto Raptors, landed his first job after his playing career with the Austin Spurs.