Spurs' Gregg Popovich expresses desire to continue coaching next season
SAN ANTONIO -- One win away from his fifth championship, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says that he's still ready for more, indicating Saturday that he would like to be back for the 2014-15 season.
The 65-year-old Popovich told reporters at the team's practice facility that his fire for coaching still burns.
"I don't feel tired," he said. "I'm tired today, but I mean in general. I'd like to continue to coach."
Asked to clarify if he meant beyond this season, the 2014 Coach of the Year assented.
"Sure," Popovich said. "I didn't think I was going to have to answer those kind of questions today."
San Antonio holds a 3-1 lead over Miami in the NBA Finals, with the ability to clinch its first title since 2007 in Game 5 at the AT&T Center on Sunday.
It is a widely held assumption that Popovich will step away from the bench when 38-year-old franchise big man Tim Duncan decides to retire, as Popovich has indicated in the past that is his plan. Speculation has grown in recent months that a fifth championship might be enough to convince Duncan to go out on top.
Duncan, told of Popovich's comments on Saturday, gave no indication either way.
"I don't have any plans on doing anything," Duncan said. "I'm going to figure it out when it comes. I'm not saying I'm retiring. I'm not saying I'm not retiring. I'm not saying anything. I'm going to figure it out as it goes. I've always said if I feel like I'm effective, if I feel like I can contribute, I'll continue to play. Right now I feel that way, so we'll see what happens."
There is no specific "timeframe" for making a decision about next season, according to Duncan.
"I don't think about it," he said. "Whatever people are saying or who has insight on whatever, they're getting it from somewhere else because I haven't told anybody anything nor have I thought about it in any respect."
That stance was consistent with Duncan's comments prior to the start of the Finals, in which he said he would wait until the offseason to address his future.
"I've not come to that point yet," Duncan said before the Finals began. "I don't know when that's going to come about. I don't know when I'm going to retire, I don't know what the factors are going to be. I don't know any of that and I don't care about any of that stuff right now. ... There will be time to look back on [my career] once everything is over. For now, all I'm focusing on is trying to get another [title]."
Duncan has a $10.3 million player option for the 2014-15 season. ESPN.com reported this week that Duncan faces a June 24 deadline to decide whether or not he will exercise the option. Popovich is under contract through the 2014-15 season.
The No. 1 pick in the 1997 draft, Duncan has won four titles during a storied 17-year career that will make him a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Popovich has overseen the entirety of Duncan's career, compiling a 967-443 (.686) record since taking over as Spurs coach in 1996.
Duncan is still producing at a remarkable level. He averaged 15.1 points, 9.7 rebounds, three assists and 1.9 blocks per game this season, despite playing less than 30 minutes a night. His Player Efficiency Rating of 21.3 placed him among the top 15 big men in the league. During the postseason, Duncan has averaged 16.4 points and 9.2 rebounds, and he scored seven straight points in overtime to lead San Antonio to a closeout victory over Oklahoma City in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals.
"We've been on our last run for the last five or six years from how everyone [in the media] wants to put it," Duncan said Saturday. "We show up every year, and we try to put together the best teams and the best runs possible because what people say doesn't matter to us. As I said, as long as we feel we're being effective, we're going to stay out here and we're going to play. We feel like we can be effective, and we have been."
Still, TNT commentator Charles Barkley is one prominent voice who thinks a 2014 Finals victory would tie a bow on Duncan's career.
"I think [Duncan] would’ve retired if he had won a championship last year,” Barkley said earlier this month, according to the Chicago Tribune. “And I think he wants to win a championship and go out. I think that’d be amazing.”
Duncan is in the second year of a three-year contract. When Duncan signed his current deal in 2012, Popovich intimated that the contract would be Duncan's last.
"We are all thrilled that he’ll spend his entire career as a San Antonio Spur,” Popovich said in a press release.
A 14-time All-Star, two-time MVP and three-time Finals MVP, Duncan would achieve a rare feat with a 2014 Finals victory, as it would mark the third different decade in which he's won a title.
The Spurs won a league-best 62 game this season and almost all of their key players -- including Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tiago Splitter, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard, among others -- are already under contract for the 2014-15 season.
Duncan would enter next season as one of the league's oldest players. It's possible that only Lakers guard Steve Nash, Heat guard Ray Allen and Wizards guard Andre Miller will be the only three players who are older than Duncan and on rosters to begin the 2014-15 season.
Prior to the start of the Finals, Popovich laid out his vision for how Duncan will ride off into basketball's sunset.
"He wants to hang around as long as he can while he's useful and while he's having an impact on the game," Popovich said. "He does everything he can to maintain a level of play. At some point that will stop. It will probably be the third quarter of some game on the road some year, and he'll feel like he's not as significant, and he'll walk into the locker room."
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