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Popovich to miss Spurs’ playoff game following the death of his wife

Gregg Popovich will not coach the San Antonio Spurs in Game 3 of their first-round series with the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night after Erin Popovich, his wife of 40 years, passed away on Wednesday.

Assistant coach Ettore Messina will fill in for the Spurs, who trail the Warriors 2-0 in the best-of-seven series.

Erin Popovich passed away early Wednesday at the age of 67 after battling an undisclosed illness for an extended period of time. The couple had two grown children and two grandchildren.

The Spurs confirmed Erin's death Wednesday. The team didn't provide further details. Erin (pictured with Gregg in July 2007), a native of Colorado Springs, had reportedly been ill over an extended period

Gregg Popovich will not coach the San Antonio Spurs in Game 3 of their first-round series with Warriors on Thursday night after Erin Popovich, his wife of 40 years, passed away Wednesday

Ettore Messina (left) will replace Gregg Popovich (right) in Thursday's Game 3 in San Antonio

Ettore Messina (left) will replace Gregg Popovich (right) in Thursday’s Game 3 in San Antonio

‘We’re all suffering a profound loss to a really important member of our family and our team,’ Spurs general manager R.C. Buford said Thursday. ‘Erin and Gregg were best friends who were together for 40 years, and Erin’s impact and influence on our organization, on our families, on our players and their families will be felt for years to come.

‘I spoke to Pop this morning. He’s overwhelmed by the support. He’s very appreciative of the love that’s been shared with our group and with him and his family and Erin’s family. As you’d expect from Pop, he wants our focus to be about the game today, about this series, and that’s what today will be about. We’ll miss Erin a lot, and the focus of our team will be on supporting Pop. But we’ve got basketball to get back to.’

Popovich did run the Spurs practice on Wednesday before leaving the Spurs, who he has guided to five NBA titles since taking over for Brian Hill in 1996.  

Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who won two titles while playing for Popovich on the Spurs, was overwhelmed with emotion when told about the passing of Erin on Wednesday and was unable to bring himself to discuss her death publicly. 

Although they’re rivals now, Kerr and Popovich are known to be close. 

One member of the Warriors did express his condolences.  

‘It’s bigger than the game,’ Warriors forward Kevin Durant said 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.’

A native of Italy, who has coached some of Europe’s most prestigious teams, Messina is a candidate to become an NBA head coach in the near future, with openings in New York, Charlotte, Phoenix, Orlando, Milwaukee, and Memphis.  

Warriors coach Steve Kerr (right), who won two titles while playing for Popovich on the Spurs, was overwhelmed with emotion when told about the passing of Erin on Wednesday and was unable to bring himself to discuss her death publicly

Warriors coach Steve Kerr (right), who won two titles while playing for Popovich on the Spurs, was overwhelmed with emotion when told about the passing of Erin on Wednesday and was unable to bring himself to discuss her death publicly

Spurs general manager R.C. Buford (left) said Popovich and his wife 'were best friends who were together for 40 years,' adding that, 'Erin's impact and influence on our organization, on our families, on our players and their families will be felt for years to come'

Spurs general manager R.C. Buford (left) said Popovich and his wife ‘were best friends who were together for 40 years,’ adding that, ‘Erin’s impact and influence on our organization, on our families, on our players and their families will be felt for years to come’



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