Rumors of Gregg Popovich’s approaching demise, or at least pending retirement, have been premature. The San Antonio Spurs announced Wednesday in a brief two-sentence release that the league’s premier head coach has agreed to a multi-year contract extension.
Per club policy terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Popovich, 65, is fresh off leading the Spurs to the franchise’s fifth championship, a resounding beat down of the Miami Heat. San Antonio has collected all of those titles under Popovich’s watch, beginning with the first in 1999.
After joking in the past that he planned to retire at the same time as Tim Duncan, Popovich made it abundantly clear during the NBA Finals that he wanted to return to the bench.
"I’d like to continue to coach," the three-time NBA Coach of the Year said before Game 5 last month.
That’s all Spurs owner Peter Holt needed to hear. The longest-tenured coach in any of the four major North American professional sports is destined to finish his Hall-of-Fame career in San Antonio, whenever that may be.
It appears likely now that Popovich’s run with outlast that of Duncan, who is going into the final season of his contract. Duncan, it should be noted, isn’t giving any hints on when he might retire.
Given the resounding victory over Miami and with the team returning basically intact for 2014-15, the Spurs are not only a favorite to repeat, but they should be in the title mix for the next few seasons. Having Popovich at the helm only improves those odds.
The Air Force Academy graduate and former Division III coach began to transform the Spurs organization after returning to San Antonio as general manager for the 1994-95 season. Popovich, an assistant with the Spurs under Larry Brown from 1988-92, took over as head coach 18 games into the 1996-97 season.
The Spurs won the NBA lottery after that season, drafted Duncan and the rest is history. San Antonio has been a model of both consistency and excellence during the Pop-Duncan era. The Spurs have reached the playoffs 17 consecutive years and have won at least 50 regular-season games for the last 15, both easily the longest streaks in the league.
Popovich is one of only five coaches with at least at least five NBA titles, joining Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach, Pat Riley and John Kundla on that elite list. Popovich’s career record is 967-443 (.686) during the regular season and 149-90 (.623) in the playoffs.