Nucleation of microtubules by eukaryotic microtubule organizing centers (MTOCs) is required for a variety of functions, including chromosome segregation during mitosis and meiosis, cytokinesis, fertilization, cellular morphogenesis, cell motility, and intracellular trafficking. Analysis of MTOCs from different organisms shows that the structure of these organelles is widely varied even though they all share the function of microtubule nucleation. Despite their morphological diversity, many components and regulators of MTOCs, as well as principles in their assembly, seem to be conserved. This review focuses on one of the best-characterized MTOCs, the budding yeast spindle pole body (SPB). We review what is known about its structure, protein composition, duplication, regulation, and functions. In addition, we discuss how studies of the yeast SPB have aided investigation of other MTOCs, most notably the centrosome of animal cells.