Just three words Gregg Popovich uttered when the San Antonio Spurs visited the Dallas Mavericks earlier this year said a lot: "I'm not tired."
While not winning nearly as many games as he's used to this season, Coach Popovich has seemed as upbeat as ever fresh off an Olympic gold run with Team USA in August. "People who know him say he has been reveling in the tremendous burden that was lifted by winning in Tokyo," said Marc Stein in his recent Substack article (subscription required).
It's looked clear from seeing press conferences and Pop's daily interactions with everyone that something in him has shifted from grumpy to happy since the accomplishment.
Does Coach Popovich's renewed energy mean he's returning once again?
According to Marc Stein, league circles have shifted their tone from questioning Coach Popovich's future to one that says "don't be surprised if he's back next season."
One occasion that emphasized that belief, as he recounts, is when former Dallas Mavericks guard Devin Harris straightforwardly asked Pop how much longer he'll keep coaching. "I'm not tired," replied Popovich. The interaction happened earlier this season as Harris, who spent years competing against the Spurs, was covering the Mavericks for the October 28th matchup against San Antonio.
Of course, Popovich turns 73 on January 28th, so the question of his impending retirement will continue to hover around until he eventually hangs up the clipboard.
As I spoke about in my realistic goals for this year's team, the least they could do is give their head coach 17 more wins in 58 games to give him the all-time coaching record, but the pressure might not all land on this season after all.
While Gregg Popovich is as irreplaceable of a person as there is in the NBA, I could see the Spurs still continuing to progress forward under the leadership of Becky Hammon or the like next season. If Coach Popovich returns for one last season, however, that wouldn't be bad either.
Ultimately, we probably won't know for sure until later in the offseason what Coach Popovich's intents are, but one thing is for sure -- he's earned the right to lead the team as long as he wants.