San Antonio Spurs News

San Antonio Spurs: What if Avery Johnson never called a team meeting?

By Rob Wolkenbrod
SAN ANTONIO - JUNE 16: Avery Johnson #6 of the San Antonio Spurs celebrates after the NBA game against the New York Knicks on June 16, 1999 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1999 NBAE (Photo by Andy Hayt/NBAE via Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO - JUNE 16: Avery Johnson #6 of the San Antonio Spurs celebrates after the NBA game against the New York Knicks on June 16, 1999 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1999 NBAE (Photo by Andy Hayt/NBAE via Getty Images)
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What if the San Antonio Spurs never had an Avery Johnson-led team meeting that helped save head coach Gregg Popovich’s job?

In 2018, NBA fans look at Gregg Popovich, head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, as one of the best at his profession. Since 1996-97, he has helmed the Silver and Black to 21 playoff appearances and five NBA championships, with Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili among the players that have played under the now 69-year-old coach.

However, in the strike-shortened 1998-99 season, the Spurs nearly made a coaching change that would have altered the franchise’s trajectory.

NBA TV posted a video on the situation that saved Popovich’s job in 1998-99, when the Spurs were 6-8 and in the coaching rumor mill. Avery Johnson, then the team’s point guard, expressed loyalty towards Popovich for bringing him to San Antonio, and wanting to help save his coach’s career. So, a team meeting was called that turned everything around and contributed to the franchise’s first championship.

If the Spurs fired Popovich, where would this organization be? Sure, Duncan and Robinson were already part of the team, but what about the players of the future, like Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili? What if Duncan chose to leave in the summer of 2000? Would any of the championships in the 2000’s even exist?

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There would have been plenty of ramifications on the Spurs’ future. The same goes for other franchises, depending on if anyone else decided to hire Popovich as their head coach. Thankfully, for Spurs fans, this only became a “what if” and nothing more.

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