* Highly successful pro basketball coach
* Opponent of strict border control
* Portrays America as a racist, sexist nation
* Despises President Trump
* Opponent of the Second Amendment
* Compared Christopher Columbus to Adolf Hitler
Gregg Popovich was born on January 28, 1949 in East Chicago, Indiana. He attended the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, where he played four seasons on the basketball team, including a senior year as team captain.
After graduating in 1970 with a degree in Soviet Studies, Popovich served in the U.S. Air Force. He was initially stationed with the 6594th Support Group located in Sunnyvale, California. In this role, Popovich was tasked with operating spy satellites that surveilled Soviet missile launches. He later traveled to the Soviet Union and Eastern European nations to compete for the U.S. Armed Forces basketball team. In 1972, he was captain of the Armed Forces team and was invited to try out for the U.S. Olympic basketball team.
In 1973, Popovich returned to Colorado to coach basketball at the Air Force Academy Preparatory School. From 1976-1979, he served as an assistant coach for the U.S. Air Force Academy team while pursuing a master’s degree in Physical Education and Sports Sciences from the University of Denver.
From 1979-1988, Popovich was the head coach of the Pomona-Pitzer basketball team in Claremont, California. After the 1987-88 season, he joined future Hall of Fame head coach Larry Brown on the staff of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA’s) San Antonio Spurs. Popovich was Brown’s top assistant until 1992, at which point the he and the rest of the staff were summarily fired by owner Red McCombs. Following a brief stint thereafter as an assistant coach with the Golden State Warriors, Popovich returned to the Spurs in 1994 to become the organization’s General Manager and Vice President of Basketball Operations. Midway through the 1996-1997 season, he assumed the position of head coach — the role he has held ever since.
Popovich is one of the most accomplished coaches in NBA history. From 1996-2022, he amassed an NBA record of 1,344 career victories and led his team to 5 league championships. In 2022, he was named one of the NBA’s 15 all-time greatest coaches. He also coached the U.S.A. Basketball Team to an Olympic gold medal at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
Off the court, Popovich has long been an outspoken political leftist. In 2010, for instance, he strongly supported Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver’s decision to have his team members wear the words “Los Suns” on their uniforms during Cinco de Mayo – as an expression of opposition to Arizona’s newly passed Senate Bill 1070. That legislation stiffened a number of restrictions against illegal immigration in the state.
In 2014, Popovich hired Becky Hammon to become the second female assistant coach in NBA history. In a 2015 interview, Popovich articulated his feelings about women coaching men’s basketball teams in an American culture that was, by his reckoning, rife with injustice against women:
“It’s a societal sort of thing. In America, we are great at sticking our heads in the sand and being behind the rest of the world in a whole lot of areas. We think we are this big democratic, fair place. But you look at our world now, whether it’s gender-wise or racially or religiously, there’s all kinds of stuff that is not the way it’s supposed to be. I think a female coaching a team these days has a lot to do with the people on the teams maturing as individuals, as members of a society understanding that it’s not about any of those things. It’s about talent. It’s about respect. People like Becky [Hammon] over time will gain respect, and people will understand that this is possible. It can happen. It’s like women getting the vote. Think about how long that took before change was made. But I think since 2000, changes have been pretty damn lacking in a lot of ways. I think people are fed up with it, injustice, and people not respecting other people’s space and who they are. I think it’s [the hiring of Hammon is] a step in the right direction.”
In July 2016, Popovich supported the NBA’s decision to relocate its 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, where it had been scheduled to take place, as a gesture of protest against North Carolina’s recently enacted House Bill 2. As noted by National Review, the law’s purpose was primarily “to ensure that people, especially women and children but men as well, can use public restrooms, locker rooms, and changing areas without being exposed to people of the opposite biological sex.” Popovich opposed the legislation, stating: “Enter the real world, I would say to some states. I agree with the league and … everybody else who pulled out.”
After Donald Trump’s presidential election victory in November 2016, Popovich said it was “disgusting” that Trump would be “in charge of our country.” “I’m a rich white guy and I’m sick to my stomach thinking about it,” the coach declared. “I can’t imagine being a Muslim right now or a woman or an African-American, Hispanic, a handicapped person. How disenfranchised they might feel. For anyone in those groups that voted for him, it’s just beyond my comprehension how they ignore all that.” Popovich also condemned Trump’s voters for overlooking what the coach described as the new president’s “xenophobic, homophobic, racist, [and] misogynistic” rhetoric: “I live in that country where half the people ignored all that to elect someone. That’s the scariest part of the whole thing to me.”
In January 2017, Popovich praised the political messaging of the inaugural “Women’s March,” an event devoted to promoting a long list of leftist, pro-Democrat, anti-Trump agendas. Stating that “Hillary [Clinton] won the popular vote” and that the “majority of people out there … don’t buy [Trump’s] act,” Popovich asserted that “you really can’t believe anything that comes out of his mouth.” Further, Popovich voiced his hope that the United States would not “get embarrassed” by Trump on the world stage, and that Trump would not “roll back liberties that have been worked for so long in so many different areas.”
In an October 2017 interview with Dave Zirin of The Nation magazine, Popovich became angry as he reflected upon President Trump’s announcement, earlier that day, that he: (a) had written letters to the families of some American soldiers who recently had been killed, and (b) was planning to call those same families by telephone as well, even though “a lot of [former presidents] didn’t make [such] calls.” Said Popovich in response to Trump’s remarks: “This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others. This has of course been a common practice of his, but to do it in this manner–and to lie about how previous Presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers–is as low as it gets. We have a pathological liar in the White House: unfit intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically to hold this office, and the whole world knows it, especially those around him every day. The people who work with this President should be ashamed because they know it better than anyone just how unfit he is, and yet they choose to do nothing about it. This is their shame most of all.” Popovich also accused Trump of fomenting “never ending divisiveness” among the American people.
Popovich again took issue with President Trump when the latter, on January 14, 2018 – one day before Martin Luther King Day — told a reporter who asked him if he was a racist: “No. I’m not a racist. I’m the least racist person you have ever interviewed. That I can tell you.” “[Martin Luther King Jr.] understood that racism was our national sin, and if everybody didn’t come together it would bring everybody down, including white people,” said Popovich. “That promise that he basically demanded America fulfill from way back when is what put us on the road to make America great. At the same time, we all know the situation now. And I think he’d be a very, very sad man to see that a lot of his efforts have been held up and torn down. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking at the Voting Rights Act or the ridiculous number of people of color who are incarcerated.” “Every time I hear somebody say they’re not a racist, you know they are,” Popovich added.
In March 2018, Popovich said it was time for Americans to question whether the Second Amendment “right of the people to keep and bear Arms” was appropriate for the modern era. Regarding a proposal that sought to raise the minimum age at which a person could purchase firearms, he said: “Even if they changed the age limit, it’s all a Band-Aid. The obvious elephant in the room is the guns, weapons of war, the magazines. The real discussion should be about the Second Amendment. Is it useful? Does it serve its purpose the way it was supposed to do in the beginning? That discussion should be had.” Popovich then denounced the National Rifle Association, the Republicans in Congress, and President Trump: “Is one life more important than some congressman keeping his position because he’s [Trump is] afraid he won’t get funds from the NRA? It’s a dereliction of duty on the part of everybody around Trump.”
In April 2018, when asked about a Washington Post article which noted that many San Antonio Spurs fans felt “insulted” and displeased by Popovich’s recent attacks on President Trump, the coach replied: “I don’t care about an article that anyone might write…. The organization has never said a word about any opinion that I might have about anything, not one time.” Regarding the Spur fans who had been quoted in the Post story, Popovich said: “Who are these people? The Washington Post cares about what goes on in San Antonio?”
A few days after the infamous May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd, which sparked a wave of violent riots in cities across the United States, Popovich stated that the rioting was due to a “lack of leadership” by President Trump. Among the coach’s remarks were the following:
In August 2020, Popovich lauded the city of Austin, Texas for its decision to slash its police department budget by one third, and he voiced his hope that his home town of San Antonio would follow suit. Asserting that the defunding of police departments, and the passage of ordinances identifying racism as a public health issue, were “key” measures that could help America become a better place to live, the coach said: “I think that’s the key, very frankly. Obviously nothing’s happening from the top. We have a president who is obviously racist by any measure, so the local grassroots politicians have to take the lead.” (This paragraph also appears in the section titled “Characterizing America As a Racist Nation.”)
Days before the November 2020 presidential election, Popovich appeared in an ad for the anti-Trump organization, the Lincoln Project. “Our democracy is at stake,” Popovich alleged while declaring his support for Democrat nominee Joe Biden. Among other things, the coach reaffirmed his pledge to “categorically reject white supremacy” while promoting “compassion and decency.” “A vote for Donald Trump,” he added, “is a vote against the very ideals upon which our democracy was founded.”
In January 2021, Popovich praised the effort of House Democrats to impeach President Trump for a second time. “I don’t have a lot of faith that the 25th Amendment is going to be invoked,” said Popovich. “This impeachment will say a lot. If anything, it will bring people together rather than be divisive. It will bring people together who may have thought a different way and realize what Trump can really do and what he really is. So, I’m all for it. It’s a good move.” “As a citizen,” Popovich continued, “what we all watched [the breach of the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021] was horrific, and we all saw the lack of concern and incompetence on the part of our president, which is really sad. He is what he is, but what that does for our democracy and our country and our standing and our credibility, let alone the safety for all those people in the building, is just enough to fry your brain. It is something you can’t even conceive of.” Popovich also praised those Republicans who supported the impeachment of Trump. “To see people like [Wyoming Representative] Liz Cheney come out today and said what she said really warms your heart,” he explained. “She’s a Republican. Trumpism is a cult. She’s a real Republican. I’m a Democrat. Her values are just as important as my values. That’s what you talk out. That’s what you compromise. Crazy nuts, whack jobs, conspiracy theorists have gotten us to this point.”
After President Trump in September 2017 denounced professional athletes who had been kneeling during the pre-game national anthem as a gesture of protest against America’s purported scourges of white racism and police brutality, Popovich called the United States “an embarrassment to the world” and said: “There has to be an uncomfortable element in the discourse for anything to change. Whether it’s the LGBT movement, women’s suffrage, race, it doesn’t matter. People have to be made to feel uncomfortable, and especially white people because we’re comfortable. We still have no clue of what being born white means. If you read some of the recent literature, you’ll realize there really is no such thing as whiteness, but we kind of made that up. That’s not my original thought, but it’s true.” “Because you were born white,” Popovich added, “you have advantages that are systemically, culturally, psychologically there. And they have been built up and cemented for hundreds of years, but many people can’t look at it. It’s too difficult.”
Popovich took issue with President Trump when the latter, on January 14, 2018 – one day before Martin Luther King Day — told a reporter who asked him if he was a racist: “No. I’m not a racist. I’m the least racist person you have ever interviewed. That I can tell you.” “[Martin Luther King Jr.] understood that racism was our national sin, and if everybody didn’t come together it would bring everybody down, including white people,” said Popovich. “That promise that he basically demanded America fulfill from way back when is what put us on the road to make America great. At the same time, we all know the situation now. And I think he’d be a very, very sad man to see that a lot of his efforts have been held up and torn down. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking at the Voting Rights Act or the ridiculous number of people of color who are incarcerated.” “Every time I hear somebody say they’re not a racist, you know they are,” Popovich added. (This paragraph also appears in the section titled “Contempt for Donald Trump.”)
In February 2018, Popovich told reporters that it was important for the NBA to promote Black History Month because of the widespread racism which continued to plague America. “The league is made up of a lot of black guys,” he said. “To honor that and understand it is pretty simplistic. How would you ignore that? But more importantly, we live in a racist country that hasn’t figured it out yet. And it’s always important to bring attention to it — even if it angers some people.” “The point is, you have to keep it in front of everybody’s nose so they understand it still hasn’t been taken care of and we still have a lot of work to do,” added Popovich.
On June 6, 2020, Popovich spoke emotionally in a video whose purpose was to address the nationwide racial unrest that had been sparked by George Floyd’s death. Among the coach’s remarks were the following:
On July 27, 2020, Popovich spoke out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and derided its critics as “ignorant.” “It’s no different for me than it is to anybody else who cares about justice and who can be empathetic to the fact that justice has been denied to a group of people for far too long,” the coach said. “And enough is enough. Everybody’s tired of it, especially the group that has been degraded and savaged for so long. People who don’t understand Black Lives Matter or are offended by it are just ignorant.”
Addressing the press on August 9, 2020, Popovich spent three minutes paying tribute to Michael Brown, the black teenager who infamously had been shot and killed six years earlier after attempting to steal a gun from a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. “Today is the six-year anniversary for Michael Brown,” said Popovich. “I don’t know if any of you thought of that today, but six years ago today, he was gunned down and killed. This was a young man who had just graduated from high school about a week earlier, I think. There was some sort of an altercation that everybody has not agreed upon yet. But the fact that is agreed upon is this is a young man with his hands in the air, running away from the officer, running away, and receives six shots in the back that killed him.” (For details exposing the falsehood of all these claims by Popovich, click here,)
“And it’s just another example of an overall culture,” Popovich added, “not every policeman, so don’t take it out of context, but an overall culture that sort of presumes guilt, or feels danger because it’s a young black man.” The coach then again mischaracterized the facts that surrounded Brown’s shooting: “And this particular officer even said that that he was in fear of his life. Now, I can’t imagine being in fear of my life if somebody is running away from me with their hands up. That’s not too scary.” “And, of course, he [the officer] was never charged,” Popovich stated without mentioning that an extensive investigation had cleared the officer of any wrongdoing. “To this day, you can count the many more [police shootings of young black men] that have happened,” Popovich continued. “And so that’s one of the reasons why the [NBA] coaches, the owners, the players especially, the staff, everybody here wants to make sure that we sound this out constantly to make sure the momentum does not go away.”
In August 2020, Popovich lauded the city of Austin, Texas for its decision to slash its police department budget by one third, and he voiced his hope that his home town of San Antonio would follow suit. Asserting that the defunding of police departments, and the passage of ordinances identifying racism as a public health issue, were “key” measures that could help America become a better place to live, the coach said:
Also in August 2020, Popovich spoke about the 1955 lynching of Lamar Smith, a black Mississippi man who had been murdered for registering blacks to vote. “I just want to bring that up as a reminder to everybody that this fight has been going on for a long time, and we can’t let people who want to suppress the vote win the day,” said Popovich.
On July 23, 2022 in New York City, Popovich made a surprise appearance at a “social justice” summit co-organized by Jay Z’s Roc Nation and United Justice Coalition, to present an award to attorney Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project (IP). Proceeding from the premise that American society is irredeemably steeped in racism, IP “works to free the innocent, prevent wrongful convictions, and create fair, compassionate, and equitable systems of justice for everyone.” Lamenting what he viewed as the enormous amount of racism in America, Popovich said: “This is the country we live in. I don’t have the answers, but it pisses me off. It hurts me. It confounds me. And I wonder where the hell will I live? I live in a country I did not know exists. I knew there were racists, I understand that. But I had no idea it was to this level, and that the injustice and the seeking of power was so rampant that we are in the position we’re in now.”
In March 2018, Popovich said it was time for Americans to question whether the Second Amendment “right of the people to keep and bear Arms” was appropriate for the modern era. Regarding a proposal that sought to raise the minimum age at which a person could purchase firearms, he said: “Even if they changed the age limit, it’s all a Band-Aid. The obvious elephant in the room is the guns, weapons of war, the magazines. The real discussion should be about the Second Amendment. Is it useful? Does it serve its purpose the way it was supposed to do in the beginning? That discussion should be had.” Popovich then denounced the National Rifle Association, the Republicans in Congress, and President Trump: “Is one life more important than some congressman keeping his position because he’s [Trump is] afraid he won’t get funds from the NRA? It’s a dereliction of duty on the part of everybody around Trump.” (This paragraph also appears in the section titled “Contempt for Donald Trump.”)
Following the death of 19 children and 2 teachers in a May 2022 mass shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas, Popovich spoke at a local event called “Stand with Uvalde” on June 4, 2022. “I’m sick and tired of 50 and 60 and 70-year-old white men [Republican political figures who support gun rights] screwing up all our lives because they are selfish and really care about nothing else but their position,” the coach declared. He also called upon attendees to encourage the “millions who aren’t voting” to “vote” in the “next election.” At the same event, Popovich also said: “[W]hy can anybody buy an AR-15 [rifle]? I shouldn’t be able to buy one, you shouldn’t be able to buy one. What the hell do you need an AR-15 for?”
In March 2018, Popovich offered high praise for the so-called “March For Our Lives” (MFOL), a massive leftwing rally held on March 24, 2018 in Washington, D.C. and devoted to the advancement of strict gun-control measures. He likened those who attended not only that event, but also the 800+ satellite marches which were held across the U.S. and abroad that same day, to the pro-civil rights and anti-Vietnam War activists of yesteryear. “They [the MFOL demonstrators] give me hope that I’m actually living in the country I thought I was living in because at times it’s not where I thought I was living,” Popovich said. “They made me believe. They give you hope for the future. They want to do the right thing, things that have moral clarity and common sense.”
In February 2019, Popovich lauded former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick for having initiated the tradition of kneeling during the pregame national anthem. “He did it for the right reasons,” Popovich told ESPN, likening Kaepernick to Olympians Tommy Smith and John Carlos, who had been suspended from the U.S. track team after they raised their fists in Black Power salutes at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, and to boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who had been stripped of his titles after refusing to serve militarily in Vietnam.
In August 2019, Popovich again spoke out in support of Kaepernick, telling reporters:
“Patriotism means a lot of things to different people. There’s people who are truly committed in that sense and people who are fake. The show of patriotism I think is a bit inappropriate and that is not something that I think we want to emulate. Because someone hugs a flag doesn’t mean they’re patriotic. Being a patriot is somebody that respects their country and understands that the best thing about our country is that we have the ability to fix things that have not come to fruition for a lot of people so far. Like a Kaepernick. That was a very patriotic thing he did. He cared about his country enough to fix some things that were obvious, that everybody knows about but does nothing about.”
“All the promises in the beginning when the country was established is fantastic, but those goals have not been reached yet for a lot of people,” Popovich added. “So you can still be patriotic and understand that there still needs to be criticism and changes and more attention paid to those who do not have what other people do have, and that’s where we’ve fallen short in a lot of different ways. Being a critic of those inequalities does not make you a non-patriot.”
Just days before Columbus Day in October 2021, Popovich stated that the fifteenth-century explorer Christopher Columbus was guilty of having “initiated a new world genocide.” “Beginning with him and what he set in motion, what followed, [was] the annihilation of every indigenous person in Hispaniola, which was Haiti and the Dominican Republic today, that’s what he did,” Popovich continued. “He took slaves, he mutilated, he murdered, and we’re going to say ‘slash’ and honor him?” While deriding the celebration of the holiday, Popovich also compared Italian Americans honoring Columbus, to Germans commemorating Adolf Hitler: “It’s like saying we should be proud of Hitler because we’re German.”
In a January 2022 interview, Popovich voiced his contempt for Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, the only two Democrat senators who stated that they did not support ending the Senate filibuster rule in order to allow their party to forcibly pass key pieces of legislation — like the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act — with a mere one-vote majority rather than the 60 votes traditionally necessary to override a filibuster and bring bills to a vote on the Senate floor. “As many have said, it’s been time, it’s past time for hardball,” said Popovich. “The Republican Senate will just not participate, they just will not. So, whatever can be done needs to be done. And Sinema and Manchin, they get it, but they don’t get it. They know what’s going on. They understand. But there are more important things to them, and it’s damn selfish and dangerous to our country.”
“It’s ironic, but as much as the community of color has been oppressed and denigrated, those are the people who try to save this damn country from itself,” Popovich said in the same interview. “It’s just ironic to me. Every time we take steps forward, you get the backlash. The fact that the voting rights issue is in the situation it’s in is just mind boggling to me in one sense because we’ve already gone through this back in the Sixties, and we know what the Supreme Court did earlier in gutting it.” “But it’s like we don’t get it. It’s like, maybe there wouldn’t be a democracy if it wasn’t for Black people,” Popovich continued. “If you think about it, maybe this all would have happened 50, 60, 80 years ago if Black people didn’t continue to fight for what they deserve and what was promised.”
In a pre-game press conference on April 9, 2023, Popovich denounced the Republican state lawmakers in Tennessee who had recently voted to expel two of their black Democrat colleagues — Reps. Justin Jones (Nashville) and Justin Pearson (Memphis) — for leading protests against gun violence after a March 27 mass shooting had killed three students and three adults at a private elementary school in Nashville. Regarding Republican politicians who opposed stricter gun-control measures, the NBA coach said:
“[W]hat would it take to budge those people? What would it take? I mean, we’ve got two young Black guys in Tennessee who just got railroaded by a bunch of people that I would bet down deep in their soul want to go back to Jim Crow. And what they just did is a good start. It’s beyond comprehension. And what were they guilty of? They actually protested? Those [Tennessee Republican] legislators called those kids that were protesting insurrectionists. That’s hard to believe in America. But America ain’t what we thought America was. It’s changed. So if those kids are insurrectionists, what were the people [at the U.S. Capitol] on January 6th ? What do we call them? What’s the next step or word or level of violence after insurrectionists? I don’t know what it is. What will it take?”
Also deriding U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Tennessee Governor Bob Lee (R) for their initial responses to the March 27 shootings, Popovich said: “I mean, I couldn’t believe it, so I wrote this thing down, but Senator Marsha Blackburn, her comment after was, after the massacre, ‘My office is in contact with federal, state and local officials and we stand ready to assist.’ In what?! They’re dead! What are you going to assist with — cleaning up their brains off the wall, wiping the blood off the schoolroom floor? What are you going to assist with?”
In the same press conference, Popovich also likened the Second Amendment to a “myth,” saying:
“But they’re going to cloak all this stuff [in] the myth of the Second Amendment, the freedom. You know, it’s just a myth. It’s a joke. It’s just a game they play. I mean, that’s freedom. Is it freedom for kids to go to school and try to socialize and try to learn and be scared to death that they might die that day?
“But [Republican U.S. Senator from Texas] Ted Cruz will fix it because he is going to double the number of cops in the schools. That’s what he wants to do. Well, that’ll create a great environment. Is that freedom? Or is it freedom to have a congressman who can make a postcard with all his family holding rifles, including an AR-15 or whatever. Is that cool? Is that like street cred for a Republican? That’s freedom? That’s more important than protecting kids? I don’t get it.”
In early July 2023, Popovich signed a five-year, $80 million contract to continue coaching the San Antonio Spurs — the most lucrative deal ever signed by an NBA head coach.
 A few years later, Hammon would become the first acting woman head coach in league history when she filled in for Popovich after he was ejected from a regular season game against the Los Angeles Lakers in December 2020.