The San Antonio Spurs have been a model franchise since Gregg Popovich took over as their head coach, but eventually, his time with the franchise is going to come to an end. Now, it appears as though that time may be closer than ever. According to Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, there is a “growing belief” around the NBA that Popovich, who just won a gold medal leading Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics, will retire after the season.
Former Spurs assistant Will Hardy, now working for another former Spurs assistant Ime Udoka in Boston, is considered among the candidates to replace Popovich. Tim Duncan, who spent a single season as an assistant under Popovich, is not believed to be interested in pursuing a coaching career, according to Fischer’s sources. Another former Spurs legend in Manu Ginobili recently joined the team in a front-office role, but he is not a part of the permanent coaching staff. Becky Hammon will reportedly get a chance to prove she deserves the top job as well.
Popovich became San Antonio’s general manager in 1994 and hired himself as head coach to replace Bob Hill in 1996. He landed Tim Duncan in the 1997 lottery soon after and went on to win five championships. Popovich is now the oldest coach in the NBA at 72, and with 1,310 wins, sits only 26 victories behind Don Nelson for the NBA’s all-time record. He is about as accomplished as any coach in the history of professional basketball.
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But the last few seasons have been turbulent. Kawhi Leonard was expected to replace Duncan as the face of the franchise in San Antonio, but his relationship with Popovich fractured over the management of an injury throughout the 2017-18 season. Leonard now plays for the Clippers, and DeMar DeRozan, whom the Spurs received in exchange for Leonard, is now a Bull. San Antonio has missed the past two postseasons, and with a very young roster still looking for a new face, they are expected to miss out again this year.
But Pat Riley went 15-67 in his last season as a head coach. Phil Jackson was swept out of the 2011 playoffs. Neither of their legacies has been dampened by poor endings. Popovich is among the very best coaches in NBA history, and no matter when he retires, he will be remembered as such.