Gregg Popovich isn’t the warmest or fuzziest creature in the public landscape. A noted curmudgeon with the media, Pop often comes across as taciturn and unfeeling, objecting to questions about private conversations or relationships. But underneath that, anyone who does pierce that snowglobe the man keeps around himself, everyone says there’s a kind, compassionate, and thoughtful guy hidden beneath that.
For the past 19 years, that guy has coached Tim Duncan, and beginning with camp in 10 days, he will no longer do so.
The San Antonio News-Express received a quote from Brett Brown about Popovich and Duncan’s relationship, and then asked Pop himself about it. And yes, the Spurs are moving on, and yes, Popovich is still coaching the Spurs, but also, yes, he will miss the man he became so close to and won five titles with.
“Pop will miss Timmy more from a relationship standpoint than a basketball standpoint,” Brown said this week. “And considering how great Timmy was, that is saying something.”
Brown compared Popovich losing Duncan to how he felt dropping off his daughter at college this month. You know the transition is natural, you know this is what has to happen. But there’s a gnawing loneliness.
“Absolutely,” Popovich said. “I have a hole in my gut.”
“Most people aren’t married for 19 years,” he said, and that’s why Friday represents more than the beginning of another season.
When they retire Duncan’s number at the AT&T Center, Popovich will probably be as emotional as anyone. For a few years, it seemed like, to Popovich’s own admission, he would retire when Duncan walked away. Instead, the 2013 loss to the Heat in such traumatic fashion seemed to reinvigorate him, and after winning the 2014 title and with the emergence of Kawhi Leonard, Popovich seems ready to continue indefinitely.
But it won’t be the same. It can be great, it can even, theoretically at least, be better. But it will not be the same as when those two joined together and created not just victories and championships, but a special connection that left its mark on both men.
There will be nights the Spurs miss Duncan. They’ll miss his defense, and his consistency. They’ll miss his work ethic as a standard of accountability. They’ll miss everything he brought to the table, everything he was as a player and as a person.
But he’s gone. There are still games to try and win, still championships to pursue, legacies of Tony Parker, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Kawhi Leonard to help advance. The game goes on.
But it will never, ever be the same for basketball, the Spurs, for the city of San Antonio, or coach Gregg Popovich.
Source: CBS Sports / Gregg Popovich on missing Tim Duncan: ‘I have a hole in my gut’