Gregg Popovich on Tim Duncan’s retirement: ‘I have a hole in my gut’
Gregg Popovich without question is one of the most curmudgeonly coaches in all of sport. But even someone as gruff and cantankerous as the longtime San Antonio Spurs head coach cannot help but continue to feel a little a little sting over something as professionally and personally profound as Tim Duncan’s recent retirement.
After all, the two spent nearly two decades working side-by-side before Duncan announced this summer he was hanging it up after an arguably unparalleled 19-year career. In fact, the two just capped the longest player-coach partnership in NBA history.
When informed how former Spurs assistant and current Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown likened the impact of Duncan’s retirement on Popovich to how he felt dropping his daughter off at college, here’s what Pop had to say (via the San Antonio Express News):
“Absolutely,” he said. “I have a hole in my gut.”
While hardly surprising, it nevertheless marked a rare moment when Popovich was less-than-guarded over essentially anything, as is the case anytime he speaks about Craig Sager’s ongoing battle with leukemia. Although Popovich also allowed his emotions out when discussing the “irreplaceable” Duncan shortly after the retirement announcement.
Despite his candid comments, Popovich left no doubt he’s turned the page, professionally speaking.
“He’s gone,” Popovich said earlier this week. “I’ve put it out of my mind.”
“Same culture, same philosophy,” he later continued when discussing how he’ll move on without Duncan. “I only know what I know. We’ll hang our hat on defense. We just don’t have the greatest power forward of all-time playing for us anymore.”
The Spurs even without Duncan boast a formidable lineup with the likes of Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and the addition of veteran center Pau Gasol to replace “The Big Fundamental” in the middle. And of course there are the old standbys of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, 2/3 of what used to be the Spurs’ own version of the “Big Three.”
While it won’t be the same without Duncan, somehow the Spurs will move on. And who better to lead the way than Pop?