Is Popovich poising for a monumental Manu maneuver?
By Nic Yarbro
There are so many questions in the media right now about the status of Gregg Popovich and his tenure with the San Antonio Spurs as their head coach. There is general ambiguity as there always is around this organization and its perceived actions, but this one is surely the most contentious in recent memory that could affect the team in so many different ways depending on the final outcome.
There are a few names that could be high profile suitors to replace the legendary coach such as Jay Wright and Quin Snyder, but it seems a new hat has possibly been thrown into the ring of rumors, and this one may be a bit surprising to those who haven't paid close attention to the team this last season. That name is Manu Ginobili.
This narrative has been loosely looming since Manu was hired last summer as a Special Advisor to Basketball operations for the Spurs, a very interesting title with a bit of ambiguity attached. We have seen previous Spurs loiter the halls of AT&T Center such as Tim Duncan as an assistant coach last season while moonlighting as a player development piece during practice, but he has since departed from the bench as a coach to become a master in the martial arts.
The addition of Manu, at first, seemed like a purely cosmetic title to keep a legend in-house for the organization while youngsters developed, but recent revelations during the pre-draft process have shown this to be much more than friendly favors.
It all started with a tweet from our own Josh Paredes showing Manu at the NBA Draft Combine seemingly scouting possible players the Spurs could look further into.
While noteworthy, this could be the case of a retired player having fun seeing the other side of the process he never went through as well as reflecting upon memories of more hair and fewer worries. Then players started to receive media interviews, and things start to get a bit more interesting.
In this tweet from Tom Orsborn, we see potential top-10 pick Jeremy Sochan talk about meeting Manu and shaking his hand at the combine while sitting down with him, GM Briant Wright, and others for a more formal meeting.
While this is only one instance, it seems like Manu could really be leaning into the role he was bestowed. You hardly see someone outside of team scouts, GMs, and head coaches out there "in the trenches" per se at the combine meeting players and going out of their way to learn how these athletes tick. Could be a one off for a top talent... except it most certainly isn't.
In another tweet from Tom Orsborn, we see that projected second-rounder Gabriele Procida received an interview from the Spurs. The stand-out moment in said interview? Having his brain picked by none other than Manu Ginobili.
He spoke about the fact that they communicated together in Italian and said it was a great and meaningful experience to meet Manu. I'm not sure about you, dear reader, but Manu being an interviewer for the Spurs during the draft combine and really getting to know players doesn't strike me as inconsequential. This stirs up thoughts that honestly may carry a bit of merit.
Is there more to Manu's Combine showing than we think?
This seemingly "favor-ish" hiring of Manu last offseason could be much more than just hooking a legend up with a nice payday and a fancy title to wear. All of this talk about Quin and Jay being possible Pop replacements, but nobody in the larger media sphere has thought to step back and realize that the Spurs would be the team that hires from within to replace the irreplaceable.
This replacement could be Manu, and I think it makes much more sense than it doesn't, given the evidence unfolding throughout the draft process.
Now, would it be the correct move? Who knows? The Spurs work in mysterious ways, and they've hardly made a false step that's been in their control outside of a Croatian here or there. Given their track record, Spurs fans should be open minded to anything the front office could possibly throw at them.
If Pop is anything, he's a tremendous judge of character and basketball intelligence, and there were few players teeming with more of both than Manu Ginobili. These are uncharted territories for this current iteration of the org, so I recommend everybody fasten their seatbelts and try to enjoy the ride.