No coach in NBA history has won more games than Gregg Popovich. However, Popovich doesn’t anticipate doing much winning this year, suggesting the Spurs, as currently constructed, won’t be competitive any time soon.
“I probably shouldn’t say this, but I’ll say it anyway,” said Popovich during Monday’s Media Day. “Nobody here should go to Vegas with the thought of betting on us to win the championship.”
The league’s oldest coach by eight years, Popovich knows his time in the NBA is running short, and while it would be nice to add another ring to his Hall-of-Fame resume, if there’s anything he’s learned over the course of his 20+ years in the Alamo City, it’s that winning isn’t everything.
“It’s probably not going to happen,” Pop said of the Spurs’ title chances. “Very honestly, I could care less. The point is to develop this group and give them the best possible opportunity to have long NBA careers and enjoy the hell out of it. And whoever comes after me will have an opportunity to take them to the next level.”
The Spurs have followed up a record 22 straight playoff appearances with a three-year drought, failing to make it out of the play-in round the past two seasons. A far cry from the days of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, or, more recently, Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs find themselves in the early stages of what could be a lengthy rebuild. A five-time NBA champion and 2020 Olympic gold medalist, Popovich knows it’s important to set realistic expectations for a team that just lost its leading scorer Dejounte Murray, who was traded to Atlanta this offseason.
“My paycheck,” joked Popovich when asked what motivates him at this late juncture in his career. “At this point, the job is really to start them out the right way, just like a new baby and giving that baby all the nutrients it needs to develop properly and in the best environment.”
Popovich hasn’t named a successor for when he inevitably retires, though many suspect it will be Becky Hammon, who spent eight years as a Spurs assistant before leaving for the WNBA, winning a championship with the Las Vegas Aces in her first season as head coach. “I miss the heck out of her. She made me a better coach,” said Popovich. “To say I was thrilled for her success would be an understatement.”
The Spurs open their five-game preseason slate Sunday at Houston, followed by dates with Orlando (October 6th), New Orleans (October 9th), Utah (October 11th) and Oklahoma City (October 13th).