N.B.A. players rallied around Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich on Wednesday and Thursday after hearing of his wife’s death.
Erin Popovich died at 67. She had been married to Gregg for 40 years, and they had two children and four grandchildren. A cause of death was not reported, but she had been ill for some time. The Popoviches met when Gregg was an assistant coach at Air Force and Erin was the daughter of a team trainer.
Gregg Popovich, 69, is one of the most successful and respected coaches in N.B.A. history. In addition to the five championships the team has won, he is known for his wry and combative style with reporters and his strong left-of-center political views.
After Cleveland beat the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night, the Cavaliers’ LeBron James reacted to the news: “I’m a huge Pop fan. I love Pop. That’s such a tragedy. My best wishes go out to Pop and his family. That’s devastating news.”
The interview with James drew criticism because many viewers, judging from James’s reaction, believed that the reporter, Allie LaForce, had sprung the news on him unexpectedly. But James posted a video later saying he had been warned before the interview that he would be asked about Erin Popovich’s death.
“It’s bigger than the game,” Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder said after his team’s loss to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night. “It’s bigger than winning and losing. It’s about the brotherhood we built as N.B.A. players and everybody in the N.B.A. family.”
Many other current and former players offered their sympathy and good wishes.
The Spurs, who are down, two games to none, in their series with the defending champion Golden State Warriors, were due to play Game 3 at home on Thursday night. There was no immediate word on whether Popovich would coach or attend the game.
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