Bad news for the rest of the NBA: Gregg Popovich isn’t planning on retiring, as he sees himself working a little bit longer as the head coach of the San Antonio Spurs. However, maybe the euphoric feeling of winning the NBA finals or at least of being on the verge of doing it might be tampering with his judgement a little bit.
The Spurs don’t want to talk about the future. Even not the one that might be looming for them after game 5 of the NBA finals against the Miami Heat. They were burned so badly by that 30 second turnaround as the Heat came back from nowhere in game 6 to win in overtime and swing the series back their way, en route to winning the NBA finals in seven games. It changed the Spurs. Made them even better.
If there’s one team you don’t expect to let this one slip away, it’s the Spurs. Because of their recent experience, and because of what Popovich is usually about. Respecting everyone they’re facing. Never get complacent. Not having big egos and superstars on this team (although three hall of fame players isn’t exactly nothing) at the moment sure helps get his message across, and it shows on the court.
Popovich has been head coach of the Spurs since 1996. He actually wasn’t supposed to be the man in charge. He was the general manager at the time but after a rough start to the 1996-1997 season Bob Hill was fired and Popovich took over on the bench as the Spurs tanked their way into securing the next 17 years of the franchise. Robinson was out for the season, but that led to a ping-pong ball which turned into Tim Duncan.
Since that day, the Spurs have never missed the playoffs. They’ve never won less than 61% of their games in the regular season. Yes, a 50-32 season in 2009-2010 was their worst regular season since Duncan joined Popovich to win four NBA titles, with his big-name teammates changing. From David Robinson, Sean Elliott and Avery Johnson to Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. The last two are still here. Now maybe Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green get to join the list.
There’s no other place for him, and for most of his players. At least the ones he sees staying along for the ride. The Spurs have been counted out numerous times since winning their fourth NBA title in 2007. They’ve been declared as too old and done countless times. We were hearing the same things only 12 months ago after they lost in a heart breaking manner to the Miami Heat.
But Popovich is too big to simply give up like that on winning a fifth ring, and maybe more after that. But as wide and perceptive of a visionary that he can be, he has learned that looking too far ahead into the future is wrong. The Spurs have learned from that mistake. And among all the great things one can say about this franchise and head coach, being complacent, at least now, is not one of them, and it probably never will be as long as Popovich is there.