San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was named NBA coach of the year Tuesday, making him the third coach to win the Red Auerbach trophy three times in his career.
Popovich has received the league’s top coaching honor in two of the past three seasons, joining Don Nelson and Pat Riley as the only coaches to win the award three times.
In a career full of masterful coaching performances, Popovich may have delivered his best in season No. 18.
The Spurs entered the season still thinking about the devastating loss to the Miami Heat in last summer’s classic NBA Finals. Once again thought to be too old to challenge LeBron James and the mighty Heat, the Spurs took the defending champions to seven games but couldn’t quite close it out for the franchise’s fifth NBA title.
“Suffice to say that I’ve thought about it every day,” Popovich said at training camp in October. “I’m wondering if it will go away. I’m anxious for it to happen, but it hasn’t happened yet.”
Popovich then led the Spurs to a league-best 62-20 record, which gives them home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. And he did it while deftly navigating a season filled with nagging injuries to several key players. Tim Duncan was the only starter to play in at least 70 games. No Spur averaged 30 minutes per game, and Tony Parker led the team with a modest 16.7 points per game.
Despite all of that, the Spurs won at least 50 games for the 15th straight season and topped 60 for the fourth time in that span, an unprecedented run of sustained excellence in the modern era.
Early draft entries
Freshman Randle leaves Kentucky : Kentucky forward Julius Randle will leave after one season to enter the NBA draft, where he is expected to be among the top five selections.
With five days left before the deadline for underclassmen to declare, the 6-foot-9 Dallas native announced the decision many expected even before he arrived as part of Kentucky’s best recruiting class ever. Projected as a lottery pick from the outset, Randle solidified his draft stock by leading Kentucky (29-11) to the NCAA final behind a string of double-doubles despite being double- and triple-teamed.
Randle averaged 15.0 points and 10.4 rebounds and was voted to The Associated Press’ All-America third team.
Baylor’s Austin skips final two years: Baylor sophomore center Isaiah Austin has decided to forgo the remainder of his collegiate eligibility.
The 7-foot-1 Austin, who has a prosthetic right eye, averaged 12.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in his 73 games the past two seasons with the Bears.
Austin might have been a first-round NBA pick after his freshman season last summer, but couldn’t do pre-draft workouts because of a torn labrum in his shoulder.
Clemson’s McDaniels declares for draft: K.J. McDaniels is leaving Clemson for the NBA draft. In several NBA mock drafts, the 6-foot-6 forward is projected as a middle-to-late selection in the first round.
He averaged 17.1 points and seven rebounds, and the Tigers reached the NIT semifinals.
new San Francisco arena on tap: The Golden State Warriors have agreed to terms to buy 12 acres of land in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood to build a new arena.
The Warriors announced Tuesday that they would buy the land from salesforce.com. The team was originally hoping to build a new arena on San Francisco’s waterfront, but those plans faced opposition from critics concerned about traffic, environmental issues and blocked views of the Bay Bridge.
The proposed arena will hold about 18,000 seats. Golden State is targeting the 2018-19 season to open the arena.