Larry Ramirez: Honoring Coach Popovich’s history-making win with some of my favorite Pop stories

San Antonio Spurs Gregg Popovich now has the most all-time regular season coaching wins in NBA history

San Antonio Spurs' coach Gregg Popovich talks with players Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili in the second half against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference basketball finals, Friday, May 23, 2008, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian) (Kevork Djansezian, AP2008)

SAN ANTONIO – My first season covering the Spurs was the 2004-05 NBA campaign when they won their third NBA title. I moved to San Antonio in October 2004.

That means I’ve been here for 941 of Gregg Popovich’s regular-season wins, including his 1,336th victory to pass Don Nelson for most regular-season wins in NBA history.

While Popovich has a reputation of being snarky or, perhaps, dismissive of reporters, I’ve seen a different side of the history-making coach — just like others who’ve covered him for many years — that shows there is more to the man than one-line responses during press conferences.

Below are a few of my stories involving Pop and me.

Photos: Coach Gregg Popovich through the years with San Antonio Spurs

First impression

My first interaction with Coach Pop was in late October 2004 right after I started at KSAT.

I went to the Spurs practice facility to interview Pop and select players.

Based on interviews I had seen with Pop, I was expecting him to be snarky with the media, but he wasn’t that day.

In fact, once Pop posted up in front of the media and started his Q&A session he stopped, looked at me and asked, “Do we have a new member of the media here?” I said, “yes,” he then walked over to me, shook my hand, and introduced himself.

I told him my name and that I work for KSAT. He said, “Nice to meet you,” and went back to his interview session.

I was blown away and jokingly thought to myself he’s just setting me up to be mean to me down the line. That wasn’t the case.

Pop, out and about

Over the years, I’ve had many encounters with Pop, including seeing him on the streets of a city where the Spurs were playing.

He likes to get outside to walk and explore.

For example, one year during the playoffs, we bumped into him in downtown Memphis.

I was with KSAT 12 sports photographer Mark Mendez, and Pop came up to us as we were unpacking our car before heading inside the hotel.

Pop mentioned all the equipment we had, asked us a few other questions, told us to have a nice day, and then he went on his merry way.

Anytime this has happened, he’s always been cordial.

A walk-and-talk with Pop

My all-time favorite story about Pop is from 2009 when 20 NBA players, including former Spurs guard Derrick White, gathered for training camp in Las Vegas that was used to select the 2019 USA World Cup Team.

On the first day after practice ended, and while Pop was trying to get his guys to get on the team bus, I walked up to him wanting to ask about White being there.

As he turned around to look at me, I asked, “Is this our chance to do a walk-and-talk, Pop?”

He said “Sure,” then he put his left arm around my neck and draped it over my shoulder, and he talked to me while we both walked toward the exit doors.

He caught me off guard with his reaction, but I just rolled with it. The interview lasted approximately 30 seconds.

When he got done talking, I said thanks and shook his hand.

A high-ranking NBA official walked over to me right after that and joked about it, saying, “Watch, tomorrow, he will eat you alive.” We both had a good laugh.

Yes, I’ve also suffered his wrath when asking him questions, but then again, most of us who cover the Spurs have experienced it.

Those are just a few of my fond memories regarding Pop, and to me, they clearly outweigh his feisty moments with the media.

Congratulations to Gregg Popovich for all his NBA success.

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About the Author:

Larry Ramirez joined the KSAT 12 sports team in October 2004.