With the Spurs roster going younger, should San Antonio make a change at head coach?

Luke Lawhorn, Sports Editor

Over the last quarter century, the San Antonio Spurs have grown accustomed to being one of the only basketball teams to be discussed until the summer months.

In the midst of a wild series between Boston and Miami on the Eastern Conference side, the Denver Nuggets earned well-deserved praise from sweeping LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers to make the franchise’s first NBA Finals appearance, the Spurs have become quite the discussion topic after landing the No. 1 overall pick on May 16.

Though the leagues draft isn’t set to take place until June 22, the entire basketball world has already penciled in Victor Wembanyama, the 7-foot-2 Frenchman, as the next Spurs savior. 

Unless San Antonio decides to trade away the French prodigy, Wembanyama will be the third player in Spurs history to be drafted with the top pick. David Robinson, the first selected player in 1989, and Tim Duncan, drafted in 1997, both developed into no-doubt Hall of Famers under the Spurs organization, most notably by legendary coach Gregg Popovich.

Since being named the head coach in 1996, coach Pop has developed multiple under-the-radar players into Hall of Fame talent such as Tony Parker, who is also from France, and Manu Ginóbili, who made a career playing off the bench. Pop’s other notable achievements include five world titles, three NBA Coach of the Year awards, a gold medal from coaching the 2020 Tokyo Olympic squad, and the most wins by any coach in NBA history. 

Though undoubtedly one of the greatest coaches in history, coach Pop is 74 years old, which makes him the oldest coach in the NBA and, unfortunately, isn’t getting any younger. Coach Popovich became the oldest head coach in league history back on December 22, 2020, at age 71, making it bound – and, quite honestly, justified – if he were to retire any year now. 

While still a great team developer and is known for getting the best out of each player, Pop’s unknown future will need to be addressed sooner rather than later for the development of Wembanyama.  If the hope for Wemby is to become the next Duncan and to stay with the Silver and Black for 19 seasons, San Antonio should want more youth on the sideline. 

Having Pop would be great, but him staying for a couple of seasons, then having a coaching staff makeover on the brink of Wemby’s prime could hinder some of the star players growth. 

Who’s to say that coach Pop is the best motivator and developer for Wembanyama? 

Popovich is known for his “my way or the highway” approach to coaching, which has obviously worked out before with the five championships in six tries. But when the star player isone of the most unselfish players in team history, that can work.

After The Big Fundamental’s retirement in 2016, Kawhi Leonard was the next face of the team. And unlike Duncan, Parker and Ginóbili’s teams, Leonard didn’t stand for the hard coaching that Pop brought, ultimately ending with trading Leonard up to the Toronto Raptors after the 2018 season; who did go on to win the title the next season.

The newer generation of players need to be coached differently than players in the 1990s and early 2000s did. The old-fashioned coaching mannerisms Pop brings may run Wemby out of town. And if not, any more than two or three years of head coaching is an unrealistic expectation for any Spurs fan to have.

Perhaps bringing back Monty Williams, a 51-year-old head coach who was fired from the Phoenix Suns last month, can start a new dynasty in the Alamo City. Or promoting assistant coach Brett Brown to the helm, who is slightly younger than Pop at 62 years old. Or maybe even Mitch Johnson, the Spurs 36-year-old assistant who led San Antonio to a victory in Pop’s absence back in March could bring some youth in the new Wemby era.

There haven’t been many, if any, teams in sports who have run a tighter operation than the Spurs have. With R. C. Buford and Peter Holt as CEOs and Brian Wright entering his fifth season as General Manager, fans can be sure the front office will make the best decisions for the team’s immediate success.