While it was never set in stone that San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich would retire at the end of the 2019-20 NBA season, that was an expected outcome within the organization. A knowledgeable source indicates that Popovich’s general plan was to coach one final season alongside Tim Duncan, lead Team USA at the Olympics and then walk away from the game. Duncan, too, was expected to leave the coaching staff at the end of the season.
However, things could now be changing.
The source indicates that Popovich believed that it could be viewed as improper if a retired coach was in charge of the Olympic team. With the 71-year-old already committed to coach Team USA next summer after the Olympics were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Popovich will have a dilemma this coming offseason. That dilemma will remain whether the Spurs are able to finish off this season or not.
Popovich could decide to retire and spend time traveling from team to team recruiting players to commit to Team USA. However, the source believes that there’s much more of a chance that Popovich will return to San Antonio’s sidelines for the 2020-21 season than prior to postponement of the Olympics.
Additionally, there’s talk that Duncan is enjoying his role as an assistant coach more than he anticipated. When Duncan agreed to join the coaching staff, he did so under two conditions: that he’d only have to commit to one season and that he wouldn’t have to talk to the media at any point. Considering that he voluntarily broke the second condition, it’s no longer a lock that he’ll be a one-and-done assistant coach.
Though those close to the organization believe it’s an extreme longshot that Duncan would consider being a head coach after Popovich eventually retires, it’s not the impossibility it seemed to be just a couple months ago.
Popovich’s future is up in the air, as is everything else in the NBA. There’s talk the NBA could return without fans at some point in May or June. Although no plans are close to being hammered out, there’s talk the league could go as far as play all games in one neutral city while taking drastic measures to keep players isolated from the general public.
As for Popovich, he signed a three-year extension last summer that gives him the ultimate flexibility. His contract is worded in a way that allows him to take as long as he wants to decide whether he wishes to continue coaching. The best-laid plans that saw him riding off into the sunset with Duncan at his side have now been thrown for a loop. As a result, the Spurs head coach next season could be the same person who has been coaching the team since 1996.