Gregg Popovich has gotten into his fair share of confrontations with referees. But an incident early last year set a new NBA standard.
On this day in history in 2019, Popovich set a record for the quickest ever ejection in a game when he was tossed 63 seconds into a matchup against the Nuggets.
With the Spurs down 5-0 with about 11 minutes remaining in the first quarter, Paul Millsap played several seconds of hard defense on LaMarcus Aldridge, which resulted in a missed jumper. Popovich was livid about the series of no-calls and made it known to referee Mark Ayotte, even calling a timeout to ensure his message was heard loud and clear.
Assistant coaches Becky Hammon and Ime Udoka tried their best to corral the grizzled coach, but to no avail. The future Hall of Famer went after Ayotte and was promptly ejected the fastest any player or coach had ever been ejected before.
Fittingly, it was Popovich’s second ejection in three games, a few days after he was irate about a possession call that went against San Antonio in a game against the Kings. He had to be held back by multiple assistant coaches in that instance, too.
In Popovich’s absence, the Spurs lost 113-85 against the Nuggets. After the game, though, Popovich was particularly peppy and intruded on Denver coach Mike Malone’s postgame media gaggle with a playful back-and-forth.
“Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me,” Popovich said after knifing his way through a crowd of media members.
“We were just talking about an NBA record that was set tonight,” Malone responded.
“What was the record? What happened?” Popovich responded.
"Somebody got thrown out in 63 seconds,”
“Are you serious?” Popovich asked. "That person must have hit somebody. Somebody get hit tonight? Somebody get cursed at or anything?”
“That’s part of the game in my book,” Malone responded.
“Wow,” Popovich said. "Okay."
“Anything else, guys, for Coach Pop?” Malone said.
“I got to go,” Popovich said. "Continue with Mikey.”
“That’s one of a kind right there,” Malone said. "I don’t know what to say after that.”
Popovich had been ejected from at least 19 other games before this occasion.
A few incidents stand out, like this outburst against the Timberwolves in 2010 when Popovich went berserk and his assistant coach Mike Budenholzer (now coach of the Bucks) tried and failed to hold Coach Pop back.
Or this instance in 2007 against the Raptors.
Or maybe even this tirade in 2017 against the Pelicans, when Popovich gave his own assistant coach, Udoka again, a light shove when Udoka tried to hold Pop back.
Regardless, Pop's 63-second appearance against the Nuggets—however muted he looked relative to his other ejections—was the one that actually broke records. Mark it down among Popovich’s crowning achievements.