Future Hall of Fame power forward Tim Duncan surprised the NBA world by coming out of retirement not to resume his playing career but sit on the bench and serve as an assistant on longtime San Antonio Spurs head coach’s staff.
The relationship between Popovich and Duncan has been long documented since the Spurs selected the Wake Forest product with the first overall pick in the 1997 NBA Draft—then winning five championships together. Pop has been coaching San Antonio for over two decades, but his latest challenge is working alongside his former MVP Duncan.
According the Spurs head coach, Duncan’s presence has been well received by players and other members of the staff in his first season in his new role.
“He’s obviously a special guy, really good for young players especially to see him,” said Gregg Popovich ahead of the team’s game against Memphis.
“He brings professionalism. He brings a focus,” said David Robinson. “Kind of like Pop. A no nonsense kind of mentality.”
Despite Duncan’s new role as an assistant coach in his NBA career, the Spurs are having one of their worst seasons during Popovich’s tenure in Texas. At 12-18, San Antonio is currently out of the playoff picture in the competitive Western Conference—should the Spurs fail to reach the postseason, it would be the first time in franchise history since the season before Duncan was drafted.
Duncan, a former 15-time All-Star in the NBA, may not have the experience playing a bad team, oddly enough, as his longevity in the league was spent playing for dominant teams coached by Pop. Now it’s a whole new ball game for the eccentric duo.
Duncan is a candidate for induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this fall, and will undoubtedly be selected on the first ballot.