San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was named NBA Coach of the Year on Tuesday, making him the third coach in league history to win the Red Auerbach Trophy three times.
Popovich has received the league's top coaching honor in two of the past three seasons and joins Don Nelson and Pat Riley as a three-time winner.
"This award with Coach Auerbach here belongs to a lot of people," Popovich said. "I'm honored and very thankful.
"When you win an award, it gets down to the players. Players do the work, and players do the winning. They've been unbelievable for me, allowed me to coach them for a long time, and without their play, their diligence and their professionalism, I know this wouldn't happen."
In a career full of masterful coaching performances, Popovich may have delivered his best in season No. 18.
The Spurs entered the season thinking about the devastating loss to the Miami Heat in last summer's classic NBA Finals. 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 close it out for the franchise's fifth title.
They showed up to training camp still stinging from that defeat, and Popovich had to get to know a new-look coaching staff after losing longtime assistants Brett Brown and Mike Budenholzer to head-coaching jobs in Philadelphia and Atlanta.
"The way we lost in the Finals wasn't an ordinary loss; it was pretty devastating," Popovich said. "We decided that we needed to just face that right off the bat at the beginning of the season and get it out of the way. Don't blame it on the basketball gods or bad fortune or anything like that.
"The Miami Heat beat us and won the championship, and that's that and then you move on. In all of our lives, there are many things more important than winning or losing basketball games. That's the perspective we had to take, and our team showed great maturity and resilience in being able to do that and set it aside yet again. So I'm very proud of them for that."
Popovich led the Spurs to a league-best 62-20 record this season, 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 consistency in the modern era.
Popovich added free agent Marco Belinelli, juggled the lineup to keep veterans Duncan and Manu Ginobili fresh for the playoffs and used his role players often enough that they enter the postseason brimming with confidence.
The Spurs lead the Dallas Mavericks 1-0 in their best-of-seven series, with Game 2 on Wednesday night in San Antonio.
"He's a gentleman," Belinelli said. "Everybody knows that he's the best coach in the league. So to say that is not really important. But maybe some people, they don't know he's really a great guy, a great gentleman. He really helps guys, helps each other. He wants to help everybody. Great person."