For the first time since the 1996-97 season, the San Antonio Spurs failed to reach the postseason. And one NBA executive told CNBC's Jabari Young he would fire legendary head coach Gregg Popovich if he were handed the reins of the franchise.
"The executive who wanted Popovich gone laughed after the notion," Young reported. "He knows the chances are slim but recalled Popovich's first move when talking over the Spurs in 1996: He fired then-coach Bob Hill."
The Spurs find themselves at an interesting juncture. On one hand, Popovich has led them to five titles, 22 playoff appearances and cemented their status as one of the best-run organizations in United States professional sports. He's earned the right to coach a winner.
The question is whether the Spurs have the foundation of a winner already in place.
"We think we're positioned well with the mix of veterans that we have and the mix of younger guys developing along the way," general manager Brian Wright told Young.
That's questionable. Barring some major moves in free agency, the Spurs need a roster reset. The veteran pairing of DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge likely isn't good enough to get the Spurs into the postseason at this point, let alone competing for titles. Rebuilding around Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker IV and other young players would make more sense.
Granted, it's possible that Popovich would be fine with a rebuild. And regardless, there haven't been any indications that he's looking to leave the team.
CEO R.C. Buford told Young the Spurs are "under the assumption" Popovich will be back next year.
"Pop's shown nothing other than how we're going to build our team for next year," he added.
If he did depart, a number of teams would call him quickly. The Brooklyn Nets, with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, would be a logical fit. The Philadelphia 76ers with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons would be another.
So even if Popovich did get fired (he won't), he wouldn't be without a job for long.