Gregg Popovich apparently has no plans to leave the San Antonio Spurs anytime soon.
The NBA’s most accomplished coach has signed a five-year deal to remain the team’s coach and president, the Spurs announced Saturday. There has often been speculation about the future of the 74-year-old Popovich, but after the team landed a chance to sign Victor Wembanyama last month, it was believed the five-time champions would continue as a coach.
And now it’s official. Spurs announced the move in a two-sentence press release in which they gave no details on the terms and with no quotes from Popovich or team personnel.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the deal is valued at more than $80 million, beating the value of the $78.5 million six-year contract Monty Williams signed with the Detroit Pistons earlier in the year.
Popovich took over as Spurs coach in December 1996. He has won 1,366 games – 31 more than Don Nelson, who was the career winner before Popovich caught him.
He also ranks third in playoff wins with 170, behind only Phil Jackson (229) and Pat Riley (171). And Popovich is one of only five coaches with at least five championships; Jackson won 11, Red Auerbach won nine and Popovich is in a group with Riley and John Kundla as winners of five.
He will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame next month.
“His ability to connect the really detailed development of basketball players with the big picture of people’s development, investing time and switching is just amazing,” said Peter J. Holt, Spurs’ managing partner, in May. “I think whatever Pop does, he’ll find a way to do it because that’s what he cares about. And I’m excited to see what the next phase of this journey will be.”
Speaking ahead of Spurs’ final game last season, Popovich said he’d “reaped the most from serendipity” throughout his career – even before San Antonio won the lottery and got the chance to sign Wembanyama. He may be following in the footsteps of David Robinson and Tim Duncan, who joined Spurs as No. 1 picks and became the big men of the franchise.
But with Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili gone, the Spurs haven’t won a playoff series since 2017 and have gone 121-186 overall over the last four seasons, losing basically more games in the last four than in the years before eight years together. These problems, as well as his age, led to speculation that Popovich might choose to retire.
The defeat ends now if Wembanyama can comment on that. He comes to the NBA with a goal to be a superstar, an icon, a champion. And he’s about to become the star of the latest — and perhaps final — phase of Popovich’s career.
“He’s not intimidating yet, but I’m sure he will be intimidating when I see him in real life,” Wembanyama said after the draft.
In addition to all wins and five titles, Popovich also won an Olympic gold medal at the Tokyo Games in 2021.
“He’s great,” said Golden State coach Steve Kerr, who played for Popovich and supported him on the national team. “The Hall of Fame was just a formality. Everyone knew he would be there. It was just a matter of timing.”
It had long been believed that Popovich wanted certain people in the hall before allowing himself to be considered. Duncan and Ginobili had to go in first, and Popovich is in a class that also includes two others close to him – former Spurs assistant Becky Hammon and Parker.
“Honestly, I’ve always felt that the Hall of Famers are like Red Holzman, Red Auerbach and Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. … To be honest, I never really felt like I belonged,” Popovich said earlier this year. “I’m not trying to say ‘Mr. Humble’ or something like that. I’m a Division III guy. I’m not a Hall of Famer.”
And the San Antonio Hall of Fame career will continue for a number of years.