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A Shiny Trophy To Tell Us What We All Already Know

By Jeff Koch on May 2, 2012.

KIN MAN HUI / SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS

Congratulations to Coach Gregg Popovich for being named the 2011-2012 NBA Coach of the Year. It is a well-deserved honor for one of the greatest coaches of all time.

The NBA Coach of the Year Award is an interesting one, as it is often handed out to the coach of the team that has the most surprising year. And when a team has a surprising year, it’s usually because the expectations heading into the year were low. Those expectations are set by the media; the COY Award is voted on by the media. So prove the media wrong and you get an award.

Truthfully, the best coach is rarely honored with the award. How else to explain Pop only having won it once before, Jerry Sloan never having won it, and Phil Jackson having only won it once. It gets boring awarding the same people over and over, even if they are deserving.

So maybe what’s more interesting about Pop winning this award is that, with our aging core, the media is expecting the team to be less successful. And yet we’ve won the Western Conference consecutive years. So the narrative is starting to evolve, and Coach Pop is more and more getting lumped in with Duncan (and Ginobili and Parker, to a lesser extent). It’s no longer the Tim Duncan Era; it’s now the Duncan-Popovich era.

It’s fitting. While Pop always jokes about how lucky he was to have Duncan land in his lap (and he was), Duncan was equally lucky to find himself in San Antonio with such a great coach that fit him like a glove. Duncan is an immeasurably great player, without a doubt; but his sustained greatness and success is also given strength by the culture of the Spurs, the  continuity and systemic knowledge. That is a function of Pop.

The biggest winners here are Spurs fans. We may be the only fan base who gets to root for a coach as much as we root for our star players. Coach Pop has become the face of the franchise (despite his protestations to the contrary, I would imagine) as much as Duncan or Ginobili or Parker. And we get to go into every game and every playoff series knowing there is one match-up we will never lose.

Congratulations, Pop. And thank you.

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