Gregg Popovich’s future is front and center with Manu Ginobili’s retirement

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 19: Head Coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs during the game against the Golden State Warriors on March 19, 2018 at the AT
SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 19: Head Coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs during the game against the Golden State Warriors on March 19, 2018 at the AT /

The last great Spur is gone, and with that, Gregg Popovich’s time left feels glaringly short.

When Manu Ginobili retired earlier today, an alarm should’ve gone off in everyone’s heads. Obviously, the NBA is losing a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer, greatest player in his country’s history, greatest bench player of all time, greatest second-round pick of all time, greatest dual-threat exterminator/bucket-getter of all time, etc.

But with Manu’s departure from the Spurs’ roster, the Hall of Famers that were keeping Gregg Popovich there are all gone. Tim Duncan retired two years ago. Tony Parker signed with the Charlotte Hornets this offseason. Kawhi Leonard was traded to the Toronto Raptors in relative disgrace. And finally, Manu Ginobili decided to call it quits rather than play a 17th year in the NBA.

Given that this year was one with some personal tragedy, and that his birthday that falls in January of the upcoming season will be his 70th, the whispers will fly. Popovich is already the oldest coach in the league, beating Mike D’Antoni by two years and Alvin Gentry by five. If he coaches until the potential end of LaMarcus Aldridge’s contract (Aldridge is partially guaranteed for only $7 million in the 2020-21 season, and is unlikely to be worth the fully guaranteed amount of $24 million as a 35-year-old), he would break Hubie Brown’s record for the oldest coach in NBA history.

Hubie retired at 71 years and two months plus a few days. Popovich, if he completed the season, would’ve made it to 71 years and three months at minimum.

And the league losing Pop is a huge deal. There’s no need to dive into his credentials, because even his most ardent detractors still likely have him as one of the five best coaches ever. He has changed the way coaches interact with the media, with their players, and even with other coaches.

Popovich has constantly made sure that everyone’s opinion is valuable so long as they value it themselves and don’t try to sell him nonsense. He’s encouraged his players to be about more than basketball, and to grow and act as better human beings. And he’s built one of the most extensive coaching trees in the NBA’s history by allowing his assistants to actually do their jobs, something that occasionally gets left by the wayside.

Oh yeah, and then there’s that whole winning games thing, which he’s been pretty good at too.

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So now the personal relationships with historically elite players that may have held him in the league a little longer are all gone. The last of the Hall of Famers (Excepting Pau Gasol, who is a Hall of Famer for reasons unrelated to his time with the Spurs) won’t be suiting up in black and silver next season, electing instead to go enjoy the rest of his life. It seems reasonable to guess that Pop may not be far behind, and so everyone should go appreciate him while they can.