With San Antonio out, the longest active post-season streak now belongs to the Houston Rockets. They’ll be in the play-offs for the eighth consecutive year starting next week.
This is how long the streak, all of it with Gregg Popovich as head coach of the Spurs, went: David Stern wasn’t even halfway through his 30-year run as commissioner when the Spurs’ streak started. The Charlotte Bobcats — that’s what today’s Hornets went by then — were still 6½ years from playing their first game. Pat Riley was still coaching the Los Angeles Lakers.
And now, for the first time since 1981, the play-offs will happen without either Riley or Popovich as head coaches.
The Spurs won five championships during the streak. They played 284 post-season games over those years; the only franchises within 100 of that were the Lakers (218), Miami (196) and Boston (192). And the Spurs won 170 play-off games in that span; only seven franchises have more play-off wins in their entire history.
All 170 of those wins for the Spurs came under Popovich, a total that gives him more career play-off victories than any two current coaches combined. There were 102 players who got into at least one Spurs play-off game during the streak, including current NBA head coaches Jacque Vaughn, Steve Kerr and Monty Williams.
The Spurs came into Disney as play-off long shots and felt the eight games they were guaranteed of playing during the restart would be ways to have young players grow from competition. They made it to the last possible day of contention.
“At this point, it’s been a huge success for our team and our young players, the development that we’ve talked about from the beginning,” Popovich said. “We’re very happy with what’s gone on here.”
This was the first losing season for the Spurs since 1996-97, the year that Popovich became coach 18 games into the season — and just before Tim Duncan went to San Antonio as the No.1 overall pick in the 1997 draft.