NBA

San Antonio Spurs Legend Tim Duncan Keeps Winning, Even as a Head Coach

If Tim Duncan’s coaching skills are anything like his playing skills, he is going to be one heck of a coach.

Duncan, a sure-fire future Hall of Famer who played 19 seasons in the NBA – all with the San Antonio Spurs – is an assistant coach with the team and made his head coaching debut Tuesday night when Gregg Popovich missed the game due to ‘personal business.’ The Duncan-led Spurs rallied from 17 points down to defeat the Charlotte Hornets 104-103 on the road.

Tim Duncan’s view from ‘the big boy chair’

Duncan said there was quite a difference being an assistant coach than being the head coach, but he admitted he had some big-time help from the Spurs’ other assistants.

“It’s night and day to be in the big boy chair,” said Duncan. “Truth be told though, I wasn’t in the big boy chair. I had (other assistant coaches) making the calls and I was the one standing there screaming at people.”

Although Duncan is 1-0 when calling the shots as an NBA coach, Popovich’s job is not in any immediate danger. The Spurs’ head coach is expected to be back to coach Friday night when the team travels to Brooklyn to face the Nets.

Tim Duncan’s NBA career

In his 19 years in the NBA, Duncan was the model of consistency. He was also pretty good at basketball. The 6-foot-11 forward/center averaged 19 points and 10.8 rebounds throughout his career and finished with five NBA Championships.

Duncan was also a three-time Finals MVP and a 15-time NBA All-Star. He was also named the NBA’s MVP in both the 2002 and 2003 seasons.

Duncan, the top overall pick in the 1997 NBA draft, paired with center David Robinson, the top overall selection in 1987 draft, to form the Twin Towers. Duncan and Robinson terrorized opposing offenses with their tremendous interior defense. For eight seasons, Duncan was named to the NBA’s First-Team All-Defensive Team.

In July of 2016, Duncan announced his retirement from the NBA, and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said Duncan would have a role as an assistant coach with the team during the 2016-17 season.

The 1997 NBA draft

Because of injuries to David Robinson and Sean Elliott during the 1996-97 season, the Spurs found themselves out of the playoffs and with the NBA’s third-worst record.

The Boston Celtics, with two first-round selections, had the league’s worst record and were salivating over Tim Duncan with their 36-percent chance of landing the big man out of Wake Forest with the top selection in the draft.

At Wake Forest, Duncan was the National College Player of the Year in 1997 and was also a two-time First-Team All-American. Duncan was inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017.

Fortunately for the Spurs, the ping-pong balls didn’t fall according to plan and San Antonio was awarded to the top pick where it selected the future NBA All-Star. The Celtics went on to select Chauncey Billups with the third overall selection and Ron Mercer at No. 6. Both of those players were traded after two seasons with the team.