There’s a long history of San Antonio Spurs assistant coaches being hired to run different organizations as recently as last offseason — Who’s next?
For as much as San Antonio Spurs fans would like to wish that their coaching staff is going to stay consistent, that’s just not a likely outcome. There are a handful of open coaching positions popping up throughout the NBA and like usual, San Antonio Spurs assistant coaches are in the mix for these jobs. Just yesterday, it was announced that the Indiana Pacers would interview two of them.
This is a reoccurring story that cannot be evaded — Spurs assistants grow from within the organization, get a handle on things, make a name for themselves for whatever their specialty may be and they get hired for a head coaching role elsewhere. There’ve been at least five people who were considered a potential successor to the mastermind, Gregg Popovich, but the 71-year-old keeps ongoing. The looming threat of his retirement is real, but indications suggest Pop’s not ready to move on just yet.
Therefore, some of the current assistants may deem this to be a good time to bow out. San Antonio is on the heels of a major restructuring and while there’s an opportunity in that, a chance to lead a playoff team could be more enticing for one of these young coaches.
The Spurs’ three primary assistant coaches are the esteemed Becky Hammon, up-and-comer Will Hardy and franchise cornerstone Tim Duncan. Each of them brings different styles and specialties to the table, serving as Popovich’s cabinet, for lack of a better term. They’re each advisor in a different sense who impose their knowledge onto the players for the betterment of their development.
Some have been more influential than others, but each coach has an important place on this team. Before getting into the three primary assistants, we need to shoutout two special contributors. While Chip Engelland, the shot doctor doesn’t seem to have an interest in leaving or taking on a greater role, his place within the organization is tremendously influential. However, he’s not likely to pursue a head coaching job.
However, up-and-comer Mitch Johnson is a rising star in the eyes of this team. He filled in for Duncan during the Orlando restart and is more than likely the next man up for a seat on the bench alongside Popovich. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to hear that he’s been nabbed by another team.
Next: The least likely of the three
Tim Duncan is not leaving the San Antonio Spurs.
There’s a grand belief that the only reason for Tim Duncan’s glorious return to the San Antonio Spurs was that the team needed him. There was a lack of faith shrouding the team last season, whether it be from the media, fans, or even some within the organization. By showing his support and returning in an assistant coaching role, Duncan proves his continued commitment to the silver and black. He had already spent so much time with the team that it was an easy transition.
Perhaps Duncan will find that he loves coaching and wants to continue doing this well past the 2019-20 NBA season. There’s also a possibility he doesn’t return to the sideline next year. I’d go out on a whim and say that the possibility of him retiring from coaching is more likely than him leaving the Spurs to coach for another team.
Duncan is the Spurs and the Spurs are Duncan. These two are synonymous and that’s never going to change. On a scale of 1-to-10, the likelihood of Duncan leaving the Spurs for another job is a firm one and a half, leaving some room for a team with championship aspirations to invite him along for the ride for a hefty dollar amount.
For Timmy, being home in San Antonio is a large part of why he took the job in the first place. He can still spend plenty of time with his kids and even opted to stick back in the River City during the Orlando restart to oversee LaMarcus Aldridge’s rehab and live at home. Everything we know about Timmy would indicate that he’s a homebody and uprooting his family and moving across the country just wouldn’t have much appeal for him — Even for a head coaching opportunity.
Next: A considerable chance to move on
It’s plausible for Will Hardy to move on from the San Antonio Spurs.
From a public visibility standpoint, most fans don’t know a whole lot about San Antonio Spurs assistant Will Hardy. Like many great coaches before him, Hardy began as a video coordinator for the organization before assuming coaching duties with Spurs Summer League teams. He worked his way up from the back of the bench to one of the lead assistants positions last year.
Hardy certainly knows his stuff, but there are a few reasons to be hesitant about hiring him as a head coach right now. Having only just made it up to this point in his career makes him a but junior compared to other coaching options for teams with serious playoff aspirations. Rebuilding teams like the Chicago Bulls may be more inclined to let Hardy in to build with the organization.
However, most of the teams looking for coaches at the moment are trying to win. The Indiana Pacers have lost in the first round in four consecutive seasons — They’re tired of that. Oklahoma City just barely lost in Game Seven to Houston. New Orleans fired their coach because they didn’t make the postseason in Zion Williamson’s first season and the Philadelphia 76ers are obviously in win-now mode with two generational players primed to compete.
These fits don’t make a ton of sense for Hardy. However, there’s always the chance that he brings very bright ideas to the table and wows a few front offices. He’s a bright coach who has a great chance at building a name for himself in this league and the fact that his name is already in these conversations is telling. On a scale of 1-to-10, the chances of Hardy leaving are about a five.
Next: A harsh reality for Spurs fans
Regardless of the San Antonio Spurs’ intentions, Becky Hammon deserves a job.
For as beloved, as she is within the San Antonio Spurs organization and fanbase, assistant coach Becky Hammon is the most likely Spurs assistant to leave this offseason. She’s the most experienced of the team’s primary assistants and has experience interviewing for head coaching positions in the past. She’s a fan-favorite with great respect attached to her name.
Many consider Hammon the anticipated successor to Gregg Popovich, and rightfully so. She’s a wonderful player development coach who knows how to manage her personnel and put players in a position to be the best versions of themselves. For a player like Bryn Forbes, who had to scrap and claw for every opportunity to play in the NBA, Hammon was extremely influential in positioning him to achieve the status of starter in this league.
That’s just one of many examples, but Becky’s left her mark on every player in a Spurs uniform. The veterans, specifically DeMar DeRozan and Patty Mills speak glowingly about her as a person and a coach. Maybe she’s not going to be the most outstanding coach from a technical perspective, but her basketball IQ is sky-high and she’s a wonderful leader both on and off the court.
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Unfortunately for the Spurs, everyone around the team knows that Becky Hammon is special. It’s almost heinous that she doesn’t have a head coaching job already. There are obvious roadblocks for Becky that have nothing to do with her qualifications — She’s working to become the first woman to be the head coach of a major professional American sports team and is the frontrunner to do so.
If the Spurs don’t promote her soon, she’s going to leave and this offseason provides plenty of opportunities to do it. Possible destinations include teams like Indiana, New Orleans Oklahoma City, which are in the midst of major retooling that consists of both player development and competing now. She’s the perfect type of coach to come in, appeal to the players, help them unlock new layers to their game and compete at the same time. The clock is ticking on Hammon’s time in San Antonio unless she’s promoted.
At the very least, the team needs to give her assurance that she’ll be taking over once Popovich calls it quits.