When the San Antonio Spurs failed to make the playoffs for the first time in 22 years in the 2019–20 season, there were whispers about Gregg Popovich’s imminent retirement. Fast forward to today, Pop is still here and the Spurs are on the verge of missing the playoffs for the third consecutive year.
Talks about Popovich’s possible retirement are once again brewing up, and an NBA reporter believes there's a person in line to replace him.
The Spurs’ next head coach
In Marc Stein’s latest newsletter, he shared the latest rumors surrounding the Spurs, particularly Pop’s future with the team. He believes that the five-time NBA champion will be along the sidelines for at least one more season. Stein also shared that Quin Snyder, the current head coach of the Utah Jazz, will likely be next in line to take the mantle.
“If you pressed me, I would (cautiously) stick with the idea that Popovich, who turned 73 in January, coaches the Spurs for at least one more season, knowing how much he still loves (and needs) to be in the gym. Yet I reserve the right to change that answer if Utah’s Quin Snyder becomes unexpectedly available. More and more, I hear Snyder’s name as a potential Pop successor that the Spurs would naturally relish. Snyder, of course, established himself in the NBA after his college years by coaching the Spurs’ G League team in Austin and is in Year 8 with a Jazz team trying to find a measure of playoff success befitting its consistently outstanding regular-season play under Snyder,” Stein wrote, per substack.
Whether a pure rumor or close to the truth, Stein’s statement will definitely shock a lot of Jazz fans. As for one, Snyder helmed the team’s rise to playoff contention -- in his seven-year stint, he has guided the Jazz to five playoff appearances. It’s also important to note that Rudy Gobert won three Defensive Player of the Year trophies under his wing. Jordan Clarkson was also crowned Sixth Man of the Year, and let’s not forget about the rise of Donovan Mitchell into one of today’s elite guards.
Just a regular-season coach
However, Stein raised a critical nuance in the Jazz’s seasons under Snyder. They are a good regular season team but in terms of performing in the playoffs, the Jazz have yet to show off their mettle. Last year, the Jazz were literally the best regular-season team in the league with a 52-20 record. In another case of underperformance, they got booted out Western Conference Semis in just six games. This might have raised the eyebrows of the Jazz front office.
A brief look at history reveals that it’s not uncommon for NBA teams to fire coaches who do well in the regular season but falter in the playoffs. In recent memory, the names Doc Rivers and Rick Carlisle come to mind. Both of them won a title, but they have yet to replicate their past success in the present. Most especially Rivers, who’s becoming known for his playoff collapses than his epic 2008 NBA title.
Whatever the future holds for Snyder and the Jazz is a matter of wait-and-see. Right now, the Jazz are doing relatively well and are on their way to another playoff appearance. However, they haven’t been on the radar of most analysts, which some say isn’t a testament to their subpar season but a result of the media’s bias against small-market teams.
Whatever the case might be, one thing’s for sure: Snyder needs to guide the Jazz to a protracted playoff campaign. A trip to the Western Conference Finals would secure his job short term. A championship would shut down all the rumors. It would also force the Spurs to look in another direction or perhaps convince Popovich to stay.