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Gregg Popovich explains the key to handling winning and losing

ESPN

ESPN

Gregg Popovich is the biggest winner in professional sports. In 1,547 career regular season games, the San Antonio Spurs coach ranks eighth in NBA history with 1,089 victories, and his .692 (regular season) and .620 (playoffs) career winning percentages are the second-highest in league annals for coaches with at least 700 regular season games and 150 playoff games on the bench. In 19 full seasons, Pop has claimed 12 division championships, six Western Conference championships and five rings.

But those victories were peppered around crushing blows of equal gravity. That's the cost of competition, especially at the highest level of the sport.

There was Derek Fisher's shot with 0.4 seconds left that cost the Spurs a shot at a title in 2004 and the Game 7 loss at home to the Dallas Mavericks that denied the Spurs another title chance in 2006.

And those aren't even the worst blows Popovich has absorbed in his career.

His 2013 team came as close as any team in NBA history to winning a championship without winning a championship, blowing a five point lead with 25 seconds remaining in Game 6 of the NBA Finals and falling in the ensuing Game 7 -- the basketball equivalent to Bill Buckner's errant grounder in the 1986 World Series. The Spurs blew a 3-2 lead to the Los Angeles Clippers, capped by a two point loss in Game 7, in last season's playoffs and are on their way to watching a team-record 67-win season go up in flames after staking a 2-1 lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Popovich knows winning, but only slightly better than he knows losing.

Before Tuesday night's 95-91 Game 5 loss to the Thunder, he explained how he handles both -- and the strategy is the same:

"I think the best way to describe it is if you do win a playoff series, it's an unbelievable relief. One would think there would be joy, but it's just an unbelievable relief. When you lose, it's a devastating feeling. The key is to get over it quickly, either way. Do not think it's such a big deal if you win and it's not the end of the world if you lose. But as it happens, those feelings arise it is so difficult to end being a winner."

(HT @JeffMcDonald_SAEN)