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Spurs’ Gregg Popovich becomes NBA regular season wins leader

Gregg Popovich stands alone on top of the mountain — except he doesn’t see himself as being there alone.

Popovich became the winningest coach in NBA history Friday night when his Spurs came from behind to beat the Utah Jazz 104-102. That gave Popovich 1,336 wins, breaking a tie with his friend and mentor Don Nelson (Popovich was an assistant under Nelson for two seasons in the 1990s).

“Something like this does not belong to one individual. Basketball’s a team sport,” Popovich said, both deflecting attention and thanking the people that got him to this record. “You preach to your players that they have to do it together and that’s certainly been the case in my life with all the wonderful players and coaches, the staff that I’ve been blessed with, the support of this wonderful city. The fans support us no matter what.

“All of us share in this record. It’s not mine. It’s ours, here in the city.”

Nelson was happy to pass the torch to his old friend.

“Gregg Popovich’s success with the Spurs is unprecedented in our league so it’s only fitting that he now holds the record for most career wins,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “His leadership and unwavering commitment to the game are widely admired by generations of players and coaches alike. Congratulations to Coach Pop on this latest achievement in his legendary career.”

Popovich is coaching in his 26th NBA season, with 19 50+ win seasons and just four losing seasons among them. Popovich’s Spurs went to the playoffs a league-record 22 straight years, and his teams also won five NBA titles.

Popovich, 73, has been energized this season coaching the youngest team he has ever had, enjoying getting to focus on player development and the hands-on aspects of coaching again. The Spurs have made strides as the season has gone along, Dejounte Murray made his first All-Star game, and the Spurs are within striking distance of the final play-in spot in the West as the season winds down.

There are reports he could come back for another season — the Spurs will let him coach as long as he wants. Popovich is a legend and the heart of the Spurs organization, he gets to decide when he wants to step away.

When he does, it will be with more wins than any coach in NBA history.