Erin Popovich, late wife to 5-time NBA champion, 3-time NBA Coach of the Year and 4-time NBA All-Star Game head coach Gregg Popovich was a driving force in her husband’s successes through the world of basketball; becoming the link that helped get him the job of head coach, standing beside him as the one to reprimand him on being less confrontational in interviews. The woman with a kind heart died at the age of 67.
Erin Popovich Bio
Erin Popovich (née Conboy) was born on the 5th of January 1951. She was the daughter of Jim Conboy, an Air Force Academy athletic trainer. For 43 years, her father acted as the head trainer of the academy, giving his medical advice and wisdom to all cadets. His particular focus though was to basketball and football players. Her father was a bonafide athlete, winning the world title in modern pentathlon, the gold medal in 1979.
He got to coach the Falcons football team for four seasons, leading them to their first Western Athletic Conference title in 1998. In October of the same year, Jim Conboy passed away in a Colorado Springs hospital. While Erin Popovich’s father was the athletic trainer at the Air Force Academy, her husband (whom she hadn’t married yet) was also in the academy for his education.
Erin Popovich graduated from Colorado State University and was childhood best friends with Betsy Gwin—the daughter of Robert McDermott, an Air Force brigadier general at the time—since their second grade. It’s not wrong to say that Gregg Popovich was able to get the window into becoming one of the most successful NBA coaches thanks to his wife.
The general eventually led a consortium that purchased the San Antonio Spurs basketball team, and he needed a coach to handle the team’s training. Thanks to the encouragement from his daughter Betsy and the fact that he knew Erin Popovich very well, Robert McDermott decided to hire on Gregg to be a coach. The rest, as they say, is history.
Gregg Popovich graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1970 and by that time, he had met Erin. They had begun dating and on the 10th of October, 1976, they tied the knot in El Paso, Texas. Shortly after graduating from the academy, he decided to return to the academy as an assistant coach.
This lasted from 1973 – 1979. It wasn’t until 1988 before he became an assistant coach for the Spurs and finally head coach in 1996. All through the time, his wife Erin Popovich spurred him on and was always there to encourage him whenever he was feeling down or uncertain about his team’s capabilities.
Illness, Cause of Death
For years Erin Popovich battled with illness, the type which was unknown to virtually everyone. Only a selected few in the family’s inner circle knew about her health state, but they didn’t know the full extent of it. It was something the Popovich family had decided they were going to keep to themselves. The San Antonio Express-News reported that she had died from a respiratory illness she had been battling since the mid-90s. It further explains why when she wasn’t with her husband at events, she would normally say she is at home and is healthy.
Erin Popovich passed away on the 10th of April, 2018. The night after she passed, the Spurs had a match to play. Her husband, in typical fashion, shared nothing of the event to anyone. There was no moment of silence, there was no mention of her passing. No one shared condolences and even if everyone in the court was ready to share in the grief, Gregg Popovich decided to keep it under wraps.
It was a typical thing with the Popovich family. Erin Popovich, during her years alive and married to her husband, shied away completely from the spotlight. The Spurs team only heard bits and pieces of the person that she was, but they never fully knew who she was. And that was how she wanted it. She chose to back up her husband from the background, letting him take center stage.
On the announcement of her passing, several players, coaches, fans, and teams poured out their love and condolences to the Popovich family. Erin Popovich was survived by her husband and her two children; Micky Charles, 40, and Jill Anne, 39.