What to make of Gregg Popovich's recent retirement comments

Gregg Popovich, Tre Jones, San Antonio Spurs
Gregg Popovich, Tre Jones, San Antonio Spurs / Ronald Cortes/GettyImages

San Antonio Spurs’ longtime coach Gregg Popovich has been at the helm of the franchise since 1996 and is 73 years old. Naturally, fans are anxious that he might consider retirement in the very near future, perhaps as soon as the end of this season. 

After all, the glory days of titles and the Big Three are behind him and the organization, so it’s clear now that he’s coaching just because he wants to. He knows that this team is nowhere near a legitimate title contender, and he already owns the most wins in the history of the NBA, so only love for the game and developing young talent is keeping him around. 

As it turns out, that’s really all you need when you have the most impressive coaching resumé in the National Basketball Association. HoopsHype reporter Michael Scotto asked Pop when he’d know that it’s time to retire, and Popovich gave a perfectly expected answer. 

"“That’s a good question. Retire next week, 6 years from now, or after the season. I don’t think about that stuff. I think the little voice in my head will tell me that’s enough. When I’m tired of telling someone, ‘well, why are you getting beat backdoor so much? Can you please stay in front of somebody? Maybe you want to touch him and block him out a little bit. Maybe when we shoot a shot, you want to run back that way with a little bit of effort instead of loafing. Get your ass in gear.’ When I stop wanting to do that, then I’ll know it’s over”"

Gregg Popovich

Well, at least Pop agreed that it was a good question! I would normally say this was a bit of a nonanswer. Of course, a coach will coach until they don’t want to anymore. That seems like a very reasonable way to approach any job. But something about Pop coaching this season suggests that he’s in it for the long haul.

Last season, the Spurs were truly playing meaningless basketball. Sure, they had a good enough record of making the play-in tournament, but they were never contenders to make the playoffs, and they were treading water. This year, the on-court play is even worse in terms of wins and losses, but the Spurs have direction. They’re tanking to add talent, developing their rookies like crazy, and are clearly on an upswing. And Pop seems to enjoy working with this new generation of Spurs. 

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After hearing Pop’s recent comments, I truly do think that it’s possible that he coaches until he’s 80 years old. After all, he was wearing a Team USA shirt in the above interview. He has five titles (and none on the horizon), more wins than anyone, and a gold medal. Oh, and a spot in the Hall of Fame. At this point, the only motivation he has is internal. It’s what he wants to do. And I’ll be damned if Popovich doesn’t keep coaching for as long as he wants. Hopefully, there’s no end in sight, and I’m optimistic about his future in the league.