« There’s something bigger than basketball, someone we all know turned 95 today, and it’s not me », Chait Gregg Popovich, with a touch of characteristic irony, last October in the Spurs’ season opener. The 50th of its history. The man the coach was referring to then? BJ “Red” McCombs, who passed away two days ago.
Little known in the NBA galaxy, this billionaire, one of the three nationals of San Antonio that appear in the Forbes ranking of the world’s richest people in 2022 — was, to hear Pop Today, ” a true icon, a Texas legend. It is impossible to estimate the impact he had on the city of San Antonio. »
A ‘pillar’ of San Antonio’s modern history and a ‘titan’ of the local economy
« Red was a visionary entrepreneur who touched many lives and impacted our community in immeasurable ways. “, pays tribute to his family in a press release, while the mayor of the city, Ron Nirenberg, salutes” a pillar of San Antonio’s modern history and a titan of our local economy ».
Beyond his donations, with tens of millions of dollars, granted to various universities or local research centers, the man who made his fortune in the world of car dealerships became known for his investments in the world of sports. Including the Spurs, his biggest pride.
RIP Red McCombs. He was a legendary figure in San Antonio, and he had a huge impact on my life. We will miss you!
— David Robinson (@DavidtheAdmiral) February 20, 2023
In 1973, the automotive specialist teamed up with his friend Angelo Drossos and led a group of 30 local investors to bring the Dallas Chaparrals, an ABA team since 1967, to San Antonio. This is where the name “Spurs” is attached to the incoming team.
In addition to being a direct reference to the spurs of cowboy boots, the name is also, according to some sources, a way to pay tribute to the town of Spur, Texas, where Red McCombs was born. ” That speaks volumes for his influence on the Spurs », comments George Gervin.
In 1982, when the team was well established in the NBA with several appearances in the conference finals, the owner decided to change course by purchasing the Denver Nuggets. For a short-term tenure because a few years later, he returns to his first Texan love. In 1988, he had to put $47 million on the table to buy the Spurs from his friend, Angelo Drossos.
Forward-looking in hiring
1988, a pivotal year in the history of the Spurs who had just drafted David Robinson a year earlier, but also recruited Larry Brown as coach. This one, which has just been crowned in the NCAA with Kansas, will team up with another newcomer to the NBA benches: Gregg Popovich, 39 years old. Red McCombs was his first boss of whom he has this memory: ” When I saw this big guy arrive in his big cowboy boots, fur coat and big jean hat, I asked myself, ‘Where did I land?’ But I learned a lot from him, he was the boss. »
« He brought in Pop and RC Buford – it’s pretty amazing. I think Red always tried to be on the cutting edge, recruiting Larry Brown, Tark (note: Jerry Tarkanian who replaced Brown), bringing in John Lucas… Hiring Luke was brave “, qualifies George Gervin in reference to the fact that John Lucas was the team’s first black coach.
Even after selling the team in 1993 for $75 million, Red McCombs remained a loyal Spurs fan. He often began his interviews by emphasizing his optimism about Spurs’ chances of winning the title. ” When people ask me what I think was the biggest thing I’ve been involved in in San Antonio, without hesitation, I say Spurs. Without a doubt, it’s the Spurs “, was let go in 2015.