Remember during the playoffs when Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said that on the day Tim Duncan finally walks out the door on his NBA career, he’ll be 10 minutes behind him?
Maybe it’s time for us to start envisioning the 38-year-old Big Fundamental rolling on past 40. Or 42. Or…
That’s because Popovich seems to be making no plans to leave soon, agreeing to a multiyear extension to continue as head coach of the team he’s led to 967 wins and five NBA championships since taking over on the bench 18 games into the 1996-97 season.
With all the uncertainty and turmoil that has kept the waters churning through the free agency period this summer, the Spurs have simply kept rowing their boat straight ahead.
Where’s LeBron James going? Who knows? What’s Carmelo Anthony thinking? What does it matter?
In San Antonio, there are ties — and professional goals — that bind.
The confetti was practically still falling from the rafters of the AT&T Center when Duncan announced that he was picking up the option on his contract and returning for 2014-15. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are also under contract through the end of next season. The Spurs wasted no time in signing free agents Patty Mills and Boris Diaw to new deals. Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard is eligible for an extension, but nobody at all is worried that it won’t get done.
Popovich has often joked that his wagon is hitched tightly to Duncan’s. But during The Finals, Pop said that he wanted to continue and didn’t see any reason to stop.
One reason Popovich would stop, maybe, is his age — 65. But he’s often said that once you’ve had a couple of bottles of wine and taken a few weeks off, there’s nothing else to do except plan for the next training camp and the next season.
The other reason, of course, is that things won’t be quite so easy once Duncan really does hang it up.
But there is also that part of Popovich that will enjoy the challenge. Following right behind Duncan would be too easy.
Seeing the franchise make the transition into the next era behind Leonard and whatever new faces come in will be too much for a career teacher to resist.
The Spurs way is not cutting corners, not skipping steps. There will come a time when Popovich walks out the door, but not until he knows the organization he helped mold into a model franchise knows where it’s going.