San Antonio Spurs

Spurs, Gregg Popovich nearing 3-year extension to remain NBA’s highest-paid coach

Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs are close to a deal that will see the 70-year-old coach return for the 2019-20 season.

The San Antonio Spurs franchise is in a period of transition, but one thing is staying the same and that’s Gregg Popovich as head coach.

Popovich is close to signing a new three-year contract to remain with the Spurs for what will be his 24th season with the team, according to ESPN. The 70-year-old has coached San Antonio since taking over early in the 1996-97 season. The longest-tenured head coach in North American professional sports, the Spurs have won five NBA titles under him and have qualified for the postseason every year since 1998.

Despite the three-year extension, Popovich is expected to take a year-by-year approach as he contemplates his future.

The 2018-19 season marked the start of a new era in Popovich’s tenure with the team. It was the first time in more than 20 years that he didn’t have Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili or Tony Parker. Instead, Popovich had to rely on a new core of players led by DeMar DeRozan, acquired in a trade from the Toronto Raptors for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green in the offseason. Despite the change around him, Popovich’s Spurs still finished with 48 wins made the playoffs for the 22nd straight year before losing their first round series against the Denver Nuggets in seven games on Saturday.

That series came to a disappointing end for the Spurs. Down by four late in Game 7, Spurs players didn’t listen to Popovich’s calls to foul the Nuggets. It was a rare misjudgment on the part of the usually reliable Spurs, one that cost them the season. Still, Popovich insists he took pleasure in watching his young players grow this year.

“It was one of the more enjoyable seasons because you got to see people develop,” he said, via My San Antonio on Monday. “The new guys built a situation for themselves where we could watch them develop weekly and monthly, so that was very satisfying for all the coaches.”

The 70-year-old Popovich is the oldest coach in the NBA. He ranks third in league history with 1,245 wins, behind only Don Nelson and Lenny Wilkens. He’ll get to keep busy this summer as he prepares to coach Team USA in the FIBA World Cup, taking place in China in September.

After that, it’s back to the Spurs bench next season. The team might be changing all around him, but Popovich’s presence provides stability and one lasting link to the team’s championship years.

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