Gregg Popovich has done everything an NBA head coach can do. He’s won five championships and three Coach of the Year awards. He became the winningest coach in NBA history this season, and has led the Spurs for nearly three decades. But Popovich is also 73 years old. The players that he won championships with have either retired or moved on, and naturally, all of this has led to speculation about Popovich’s retirement. Sooner or later, he’s going to have to call it a career.
But right now, he’s not ready to have that discussion. Following San Antonio’s play-in loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday, a reporter asked him about his future and he responded by calling the question “inappropriate.” Popovich is typically standoffish with the press, so the response was hardly surprising. Whenever he does announce his retirement, it almost certainly won’t be after a game, and it will likely be a fairly low-key announcement. When Tim Duncan joined Popovich’s coaching staff for a year, it came through a simple press release.
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But eventually, the Spurs have to prepare for Popovich’s retirement and a future without him. Longtime general manager R.C. Buford was promoted to CEO in 2019, so Popovich is the last major part of the championship teams to still hold his original role on the basketball side of the organization. A number of assistant coaches previously believed to be candidates to replace Popovich, including Becky Hammon and Ime Udoka, have since left the team for other opportunities.
Whether there’s a succession plan in place or not remains to be seen. When Popovich does retire, he will do so with an argument as the greatest coach in NBA history. As such, he has earned the right to announce his decision under whatever conditions he deems appropriate.