Popovich garnered 59 first-place votes and 380 points in voting conducted by a panel of media members. Phoenix's Jeff Hornacek (37 first-place votes) finished second and Chicago's Tom Thibodeau (12) finished third in the voting, with Charlotte's Steve Clifford and Toronto's Dwane Casey rounding out the top five in a season so strong that Miami's Erik Spoelstra did not make the top 10.
His accomplishment becomes even more remarkable when considering the state of coaching in the NBA today. A record 12 coaches were replaced last summer, and three vacancies have already opened up since the regular season ended a week ago.
"I was the only one left," Popovich quipped. "It's a volatile job, and all of us know that. R.C. [Buford, the Spurs' GM] and I have been fortunate to have been here so long together with an owner who lets us do our job and shows patience, understanding of how this all works. And in that regard, we know how fortunate we've been. So I can't overstate that.
"In a business that's this crazy, people want quick, quick wins, satisfaction and don't quite understand how long it takes to put something together. We've been allowed to do that."
Buford sat at a table to one side of Popovich during the news conference, with Spurs owner Peter Holt on the other side. His coaching staff sat in a row behind him, and the coach acknowledged each of them by name.
"I think his steadfast attention to detail and facing the realities of last season's end and immediately getting it behind us was really important," Buford said. "And his approach with his staff was different because it was a different staff, but the energy and the leadership we've seen has been consistent throughout his time as a coach."
Several Spurs players attended the news conference, even though Tuesday was an off day for the team. Duncan was in the back behind the media wearing his practice gear and standing in bare feet.
Should the Spurs go on to win the title, Popovich would become the first to win coach of the year and the NBA championship in the same season twice, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Auerbach, Phil Jackson, Bill Sharman and Red Holzman did it once.
The occasion allowed Popovich to reflect on his path through the sport of basketball. He sarcastically said that Larry Brown "screwed" him as a player by choosing future Hall of Famer David Thompson over him when Popovich was trying to make the Nuggets' roster when Brown was coaching the team in the ABA.
He also said he never had any designs of becoming an NBA coach, let alone a three-time coach of the year, when he was coaching at tiny Pomona-Pitzer College from 1979 to 1987.
"The NBA was never a thought," Popovich said. "To me, the NBA was watching it on TV back when they had the long nets and watching the ball go through the long nets, I really enjoyed that. I was fat, dumb and happy as a Division III coach and would do it the rest of my life. It was fantastic. I loved it.
"But all of us take a different road here and there. The NBA was never a dream or thought of, 'I'm going to go to the NBA and be a coach and do this.' I had no clue."
He was asked how he planned to display his new trophy.
"They're on hood of my car. One, two, three right on the car," Popovich joked. "I've got three of those right on the hood."
Dave McMenamin of ESPNLA.com and The Associated Press contributed to this report.