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The magic number for Gregg Popovich is 26

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One more season could set Pop atop the record books.

San Antonio Spurs v Adecco ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne Photo by Gregory Shamus/NBAE via Getty Images

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich may have ended this season 33-39, but his career regular season record is now 1,310-653. That puts him 22 regular season wins from tying Lenny Wilkins, twenty-five from tying Don Nelson, and twenty-six from owning the honors as the winningest regular season coach in NBA history.

You may have noticed the duplication of the phrase “regular season” above, and that’s because when all games are accumulated (including postseason), Pop has been at the top since April of 2019.

Were Pop to return as head coach of the Spurs, he is positioned to end the 2021-2022 season as the NBA coach with the most wins, both regular and postseason.

And therein lies the rub — Pop is not going to return as the head coach to claim an accolade, he has said that he’ll keep coaching as long as he’s enjoying it. But he just experienced back-to-back losing seasons and back-to-back seasons of not making it into the playoffs. From one perspective, it’s possible to see the writing on the wall.

He once said he would leave when Timmy did, that did not happen. He also told LaMarcus Aldridge he would stay for the duration of his contract when he agreed to sign with the Spurs. Both Aldridge and Popovich stayed on past the initially agreed upon time, but LaMarcus finally left the Silver & Black leaving any commitment null and void.

There is another caveat — Pop is slated to coach Team USA in the Summer Olympics. Whether those games weather the international criticism that the time is still not right with the world still facing a global pandemic remains to be seen. The bigger concern is whether the seventy-two year-old will have enough gas in the tank to keep up with the rigor of the Olympics before returning straightaway for another NBA season.

Is there any chance that the outcome of the Olympics will play into Pop’s decision whether to coach or pass the clipboard? In a Disney movie, the Spurs would go 26-0 allowing Pop to walk away on New Year’s Eve. Then Becky Hammon would begin 2022 as the head coach and carry the Spurs forward.

But this isn’t Hollywood.

If this were a Shakespearean tragedy, there would be two losing seasons, leading into a possible loss in the Olympics, followed by a failed campaign for Governor of Texas.

In which case . . . his career would still end better than Phil Jackson’s.


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