It was fair to wonder what exactly Gregg Popovich was clinging to.
The guy won five NBA titles in San Antonio. His 1,366 coaching wins in the regular season is the most in league history. He is widely considered one of the five best NBA coaches of all time. He led the United States to the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. He has a lot of money. He never looked so popular.
So with his age – 74 years old – and spurs The win total is down – 22-60 last season, fourth straight losing campaign – why isn’t a guy with nothing to prove left to keep going out and trying to prove things?
What could possibly motivate a winner to go out night after night and get his brain beat instead of retiring to a life of favorite booze.
Tim Duncan wasn’t going to walk through that door, just to borrow an old phrase from another old coach.
Or maybe it is.
Popovich got a late-career gift on Tuesday when San Antonio won the NBA sweepstakes and earned the No. 1 overall pick in the draft on June 22.
He’s sure to pick Victor Wimbanyama, the 7-foot-4 phenom from France. Wimpanyama, 19, won’t be vying for the Spurs title overnight – until lebron Cleveland did not reach the NBA Finals until its fourth season. Ympanyama will tip the record though and bring the franchise back to suitability.
Next generation talent should piss off the oldest coach in the league. This is the professional marriage of the grizzled master and one of the most unique odds the sport has ever seen.
Popovich is not under contract for next yearAt least not anything general. Tottenham is more of a family store though. If he wanted to come back, logically, he would. Who can push him out? And why do they want that?
Who better to work on a daily basis with Wimpanyama during his formative years? Who better to try to develop generational talent than a coach from two generations before him – 55 year age gap?
And so for the coach who has seemingly seen everything – good or bad – here comes a new era in a multi-epoch career (his first coaching job was in 1979 at Pomona Pitzer. college).
That includes a lot of luck in the NBA. It marked the beginning of his spell at Tottenham with David Robinson on the list in 1996 and winning the lottery with Tim Duncan in 1997.
Perhaps this is the karmic repayment of all those glorious bands he has brought together. Or perhaps it was his early embrace of foreign talent, attracting more than 40 internationals over the years, including Frenchman Tony Parker, whom the young Wimpanyama used to dream of becoming while wearing the No. 9 Spurs jersey while making the NBA Finals. Last season, Wimpanyama played for ASVEL Basket, owned by French Parker.
Or maybe it’s just a gesture for staying true to the game and profession long after it used to be easy and fun. Why did Popović keep training? You can start with the way I have always considered a job as a head coach in the NBA a privilege. Why give it up? Coach trained.
Say this about Popovich: The old Air Force cadet is no summer trooper or sunny patriot. He continued to appear with limited hopes and a limp list.
The league once seemed to revolve around its own small market. Every spring the NBA title runs through South Texas. There was a period of 16 years when his winning percentage was 0.630… in the playoffs.
However, the Spurs haven’t won a postseason series in six seasons or reached the playoffs in four seasons.
Not only was he losing, he was losing in anonymity. There aren’t even announcers on the sidelines tormenting them anymore because national television has little reason to care about Tottenham.
That will change.
The lottery balls fell San Antonio’s way Tuesday, and now the league’s future meets its past. Barring some unexpected retirements, Gregg Popovich will work with Victor Wimpanyama. For how long, we don’t know.
However, the potential is almost limitless. for both of them.