Gregg Popovich talks coaching future


SAN ANTONIO -- There is at least one more game and an NBA championship still to be won, but in the clearest indication he's given yet about his future, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Saturday he would like to coach beyond this year.

"I don't feel tired. I mean, I'm tired today, but I mean in general. I'd like to continue to coach," Popovich said as the Spurs prepared for Game 5 of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat, where they hold a 3-1 series lead.

Beyond this season?

"Sure," Popovich said. "I didn't think I was going to have to answer those kind of questions today."

The Spurs are on the verge of winning their fifth title, but were loathe to talk or speculate on that possibility after coming so close last year as well. The Heat rallied to win the 2013 Finals after San Antonio held a commanding 3-2 lead heading into the final two games in Miami.

"We go back to last year and we learn from that. We're 30 seconds away. We feel that we have it in the bag and it slips out of our fingers," Tim Duncan said. "So I think we learn from that, and we draw on that, and we say, hey, it's not over till it's over. Our goal right now is to just win one more game. We'd love to do it [Sunday]. We'd love to do it in one game. But luckily we've put ourselves in a situation where we have a couple opportunities and we're going to take whatever it takes. They're going to come out and give us their best punch possible."

Popovich has always said he's likely to retire at the same time Duncan does. While Duncan wouldn't commit to returning next season, he certainly sounded like he was leaning in that direction.

"I don't have any plans on doing anything," Duncan said. "I'm going to figure it out when it comes. I'm not saying I'm retiring. I'm not saying I'm not retiring. I'm not saying anything. I'm going to figure it out as it goes. I've always said if I feel like I'm effective, if I feel like I can contribute, I'll continue to play. Right now I feel that way, so we'll see what happens."

ESPN's Marc Stein reported Friday that Duncan has until June 24 to notify the team whether he intends to pick up his $10.3 million player option for next season, according to sources familiar with the terms of the contract.

Such opt-in or opt-out dates for most players are typically June 30, right on the eve of free agency, but sources told the contract is set up to provide the Spurs with a fairly firm read on the 38-year-old stalwart's plans before offseason business starts July 1.

The date still can be moved closer to July 1, sources said, if both parties agree to do so, but it obviously behooves San Antonio to have an answer as early as possible so it can properly chart its course not only in free agency but for the June 26 draft.

Spurs general manager R.C. Buford said Saturday that he hasn't pressed either man for an answer or indication about their futures while the team is chasing a title.

"I've had nobody tell me anything in regards to whether they are or they aren't. That's not our concern right now," Buford said Saturday.

Then he joked, "We've already got Tim's successor picked out."

Asked what life will be like in San Antonio without Popovich and Duncan, Buford said: "I think we're always considering it. You don't know what the opportunity is. Hopefully you've built the program to be as flexible as it can be at the time that opportunities are created. But I can't predict when that will happen, nor know ... when you have one of the great players of all time and the great coaches of all time, how you're going to fill those shoes, because you're not."